A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003 :::
Bob, Bob, Bob... Bob Dylan, a favorite of A Mind That Suits, has always built his dense poetry out of building blocks provided by previous writers, most of them, unfortunately, Romantic poets. Indeed, Dylan may be the only Romantic poet besides Wordsworth that A Mind That Suits can stomach. All those tragic, youthful deaths! Shakespeare worked from many sources, so it is hardly a dishonorable and unprecedented way to work.

Dylan spends a lot of time in Japan where, for reasons that at first may escape most Americans, he is very popular. So it is hardly surprising that Dylan might have been taken by some Japanese writing, particularly if it was about the darker side of life, and built songs out of whatever he found there. This may very well be what he did with a book called, Confessions of a Yakuza. (A "yakuza" is apparently a gangster, but you could not prove it by A Mind That Suits, whose Japanese is limited to the names of former students.) About a dozen lines from songs on Dylan's most recent album of new matieral, the well-received Love and Death, closely parallel passages in the book.

The part old Bob didn't notice was the the author, a physician named Junichi Saga, is quite alive, and the book is quite copyrighted. Of course, such things need to be examined carefully, but if it turns out to be what happened, Dr. Saga is blessedly forgiving. It is bringing some welcome attention to a book that has sold slowly in the United States and even more slowly in Japan, and Bob Dylan is a major artist. Dr. Saga explains that his book is about how people find love even in the worst circumstances, such as the world of the underground "yakuza." "In other words," he explains, "love and theft."

Dr. Saga is an opera fan, but bought a copy of Love and Theft and pronounced Dylan quite good, because of the way everything flows together and the atmosphere, although he is not sure the lyrics all make sense. Dr. Saga is of course the first person ever to say Dylan's lyrics might not all make sense. He and his publisher are seeking merely recognition from Dylan. An American publisher would be out for blood, and so Dr. Saga is to be commended, and one hopes that this is resolved quickly, amicably, and, to use Dr. Saga's own word, honorably.

Dylan has been notoriously unconcerned with the usual things a star must do to keep his fans happy, but he might suggest his management take a closer look at the fan websites. Chris Johnson, a rabid fan who teaches English in Japan, first noticed the similarities, kept track of them as he was reading Confessions, and sent them to a website. The story was picked up by the Wall Street Journal this morning, from which all of the above information and quotes are taken. The Journal put the story at the center of the front page, which means that all 8 million of its daily readers now know about the controversy and are discussing it with others, as are, of course, the millions of daily readers of A Mind That Suits.

Speaking for himself, the admiration that A Mind That Suits feels for Mr. Dylan is undimmed, and he here repeats his hope that this is settled quickly and honorably, if there is indeed anything to settle.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:14 AM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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