Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

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As this example from ‘Tombstone Blues’ indicates, thresholds can be uncomfortable places on which to linger: in an outtake from Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan imagines his hound dog ‘sitting on a barbed-wire fence’, and the ambivalence in this line about the liminal state is found in many writings of the Beat poets and novelists. For Jack Kerouac, to take one example, the liminal is usually represented by something quite specific in terms of time and place, and his interest in borders and thresholds finds its way directly into Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan may have read On the Road as early as 1959 and it is possible his exposure to Kerouac and the other Beats significantly influenced his decision to leave Minnesota. In Chronicles, Volume One, he remembers himself turning on the family wireless in Hibbing:

probably more out of mindless habit than anything else. Sadly, whatever it played, reflected nothing but milk and sugar and not the real Jekyll and Hyde themes of the times. The On the Road, Howl and Gasoline street ideologies that were signalling a new type of human existence weren’t there …

He recalls, too, leaving Hibbing for university in Minneapolis, a prelude to his later move to New York:

I suppose what I was looking for was what I read about in On the Road – looking for the great city, looking for the speed, the sound of it, looking for what Allen Ginsberg had called ‘the hydrogen jukebox world’.

Ironically, on his arrival in Greenwich Village he recalls how quickly he outgrew wanting to live like Dean Moriarty, but he also notes of On the Road that the ‘book had been like a bible for me,’ while in Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, he quotes it from memory in the course of an interview conducted in 2000:

I fell into that atmosphere of everything Kerouac was saying about the world being completely mad, and the only people for him that were interesting were the mad people, ‘the mad ones, the ones who [were] mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn,’ all of those mad ones, and I felt like I fit right into that bunch.

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the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul