yesterday, sarah's parents and i drove over to st. paul to see the minnesota historical society. the place was packed, with little kids all over the place. the crowds were there, we were told, to see "baseball as america," a travelling exhibition of over 500 artifacts from the baseball hall of fame cooperstown.
but i wasn't there for baseball. i was looking for some bob dylan.
dylan's from minnesota - from hibbing to be more precise. in 1960, a nineteen year old dylan left hibbing for minneapolis, where he enrolled at the university of minnesota but, um, never had much time for classes. instead, he hung out in the cafes in dinkytown, learned and played folk music, and eventually got hold of some records by woody guthrie. shortly thereafter, he set out for new york city. although dylan spent much of his career trying to escape his minnesotan roots, he seemed to return to the north country - physically and musically - over and over again.
before coming to minnesota, sarah did some online research and found me some dylan at the minnesota historical society's library. i filled out a request slip, turned it in, and five minute later found myself sitting at a desk staring at dylan's original pen-on-paper lyrics for "temporary like achilles." this is what i came to see.
the bob dylan scrapbook, 1956-1966, published in 2005, first introduced me visually to dylan's writing process. seeing some lyrics handwritten on a hotel napkin - written, rewritten; scrambled, rescrambled - intrigued me. songs seemed to stream from dylan nearly complete, but, as i learned from this book and this book, he would edit them meticulously into shape.
it was the editing process that drew me to the minnesota historical society, to the library within it, and to these two sheets of paper that contained two different drafts of what would become "temporary like achilles."
i've been thinking a lot lately about drafts and the abhorance of drafts many of my students seem to have. too many of my students think that writing is the collection of words and sentences that first gush out of their heads. editing? what's that? second draft? why? multiple drafts? please.
a beautiful lesson plan grew and unfurled in my head and i nearly ran from my desk to the librarian to ask permission to take pictures of dylan's drafts with my digital camera.
i asked if i could, um, at least make xerox copies of dylan's drafts.
i'm sure there's some reason behind this - copyright; potential damage to primary sources - but still. it seems so boneheaded. if a library holds the original, shouldn't reproductions be encouraged, thereby increasing the value of - and, more importantly, curiosity in - the original? wouldn't a jpeg distributed via the web serve to further promote the library's holdings?
it surely wasn't the librarian's fault, so i smiled, said thanks, and left the library to meet up again with sarah's parents.