Sunday, March 13, 2005

BLURBS AND BOB
Dylan isn't out to gloat or settle scores, for which it is far too late anyway. On the contrary, he is keen to record his debts and appreciations, an accounting that takes in a wide range of personalities from the entertainment world of the early 1960s, including such unlikely names as Bobby Vee (for whom he briefly played piano when Vee was on his way up and Dylan was unknown), Tiny Tim (with whom he shared stages and meals in the coffeehouse days), Frank Sinatra Jr. (for whose unenviable career as a shadow he feels tactful sympathy), and Gorgeous George (who fleetingly but memorably offered encouragement when the very young Dylan performed on a makeshift stage in the lobby of the armory in his Minnesota hometown). He knows that it will confuse his more literal-minded fans that he loves the songs of Harold Arlen ("In Harold's songs, I could hear rural blues and folk music"), polkas, Franz Liszt, "Moon River," Neil Sedaka, as much as he admires Thucydides, Clausewitz, Leopardi, Tolstoy, Thaddeus Stevens.
Luc Sante on Bob Dylan.
I was at the home of my friend Hubert Selby Jr. one day when I noticed several ungodly piles of bound galleys on his floor.

"Yeah," Cubby said. "They don't want to publish my books, but they . . ." He grinned that beautiful fatal grin of his.

It was a sadly illuminating moment.

Blurb: a stupid word for a stupid thing. It originated with Gelett Burgess (1866­1951), who gave the name Miss Blinda Blurb to the voluptuous blonde he drew in 1906 to illustrate his comic booklet Are You a Bromide? Eight years later, in Burgess Unabridged: A New Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed (1914), he defined the word: "Blurb, 1. A flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial. 2. Fulsome praise; a sound like a publisher." Burgess, it should be noted, also gave us goop (1900), which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "a stupid or fatuous person." Etymology is not without its own illuminations.
Nick Tosches on Blurbs.