“Lily! You heard the Bob Dylan news?” I’ve run up behind her and grabbed her by the arm. I must be looking a little panicked. She whitens.
“Oh my god, Paige don’t tell me. Not Dylan. I’m still grieving for Bowie. I can’t…” her bottom lip quivers.
“No! God no! He’s still alive and he just won the damn Nobel Prize for Literature.”
“Oh thank god!” she breathes, “My Dylan life just flashed before my eyes – the first time we listened to Blood on the Tracks all the way through, every time I’ve been feeling low and then heard a Dylan song in a shop or café or from a busker… that road trip… he’s really been there for me.”
“I know.” I give her a hug, before remembering my excitement. “He won the Nobel! Holy shit! A song-writer – a musician!”
“You’re right, this is huge! Wow. I’m going to briefly ignore the fact that it’s yet another white American male being held aloft and also the fact that most of his songs in the last thirty years have been terrible and focus on the musician as celebrated poet part.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“It’s really cool.” she grins.
It’s Friday morning and we’ve just entered the school grounds. I have Like a Rolling Stone running through my head – “how does it feel?” – and whistle the next line of organ melody aloud. Lily stops walking and thrusts an arm out at me.
“Shut up! I was just up to that part in my head too!” Her eyes widen and we stare at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter.
“I guess it’s pretty appropriate,” I say and we start singing it together, loudly and horribly, straining our voices on the lengthened vowels and ignoring the bemused looks from passing juniors. They probably only know Dylan songs from Miley Cyrus covers and references in young adult novels.
Musician as celebrated poet. I walk into class feeling like anything is possible today.
I spent my Saturday finishing reading The Best of Adam Sharp. On Sunday I caught the train to Yarraville to attend the book’s local launch in the chilly-but-welcoming Masonic Hall. Yarraville is adorable, I had no idea. The hall was full of intimidatingly accomplished writers whose first novels have been optioned by Sony or Universal. The launch began with a reading from Jane Rawson, a novelist whose debut is purportedly “Australia’s most underrated book” As I drank my cup of sav, held in still-gloved hands, I wondered if that is in fact the greatest literary accomplishment I’ve ever heard of.
It was wonderful listening to Graeme talk about his writing – the rush to fame The Rosie Project brought him and the philosophical way he’s had to deal with Hollywood and oddly out of touch US publishers. The descriptions of the writing process for The Best of Adam Sharp made the novel all the more real and I even squirreled away some tips for developing an original plot.
There was an intriguing connection for me here too – Graeme sent me a signed copy of The Best of Adam Sharp after finding my book and recognising the Dylan reference of the title. I liked that link a lot. It’s the kind of thing that musical references should do and is hugely fitting when thinking about The Best of Adam Sharp – a book so imbued with the sentimentality, nostalgia, subtext and at times obsession that songs and their lyrics can be responsible for in our lives.
At one point Adam recalls his dad’s advice after he’s been caught out, “Think about what you sing in the shower” and I’m reminded of my Grandad (who passed away a year ago today) whose mood and thoughts could apparently be traced easily to the tune he was whistling. The songs in our heads are not set to random and they are liable to tell tales on us.
But of course we will cherry-pick the lyrics that have the most significance for us, Adam reminds us. We can connect with a song on even the most tenuous level if we are truly and desperately looking for a connection.
I really enjoyed The Best of Adam Sharp. The soundtrack made me feel like Lonesome When You Go had found its nostalgic and somewhat rueful parent; the scenes in France felt cinematic, making me want to be there, perhaps not for the drama but definitely for the wine; and the themes of second chances, what if, longing for something that never quite was could bring tears to your eyes.
Dylanesque symbolism for this theme crossed my mind briefly as I waited on the Yarraville platform for the train home.