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Headstretch and bootleg

Michael Chaiken to discuss Bob Dylan’s ‘Tarantula’

Michael Chaiken

Michael Chaiken, curator of the Bob Dylan Archive, thinks of “Tarantula”—Bob Dylan’s book of experimental prose and poetry—as “an odd moment of Bob’s career … an odd tangent, a headstretch … with an interesting publication history.”

The Bob Dylan Archive, housed at The University of Tulsa’s Helmerich Center for American Research, holds several iterations of the
“Tarantula” manuscript—“enough to phenomenologically lay out the trajectory of how it came to be,” Chaiken said. The text came at a critical moment in Dylan’s career, around the same time as Bringing It All Back Home.

“‘Tarantula,’” Chaiken continued, “weaves in and out of the writing of his songs on that 1965 album.” He stresses that the book didn’t happen in a vacuum, that “it was part of a larger wellspring” near the beginning of what later became a cult around Dylan—its galleys were bootlegged due to high demand in the mid-‘60s, years before the book’s publication in 1971. According to Chaiken, “Tarantula” is a larger body from which Dylan “carved songs,” and it “offers a lot of parallels; it’s not a throughway or aberrant thing.”

The book, ultimately, shows what a prodigious writer Dylan is. He is, after all, the recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula”: A Chat with Michael Chaiken
Sun., April 22, 4 p.m.
Woody Guthrie Center, 102 E M.B. Brady St.

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