Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Dylan and the Dead

One man's obsession with Bob Dylan spawned an ambitious project like no other. What came next was pure poetry

I do not remember whether Robert MacMillan was able to name the concert and the year of the Grateful Dead song playing in my room when he visited me, but he did know it was the Dead and he did know the song.

There is always music playing in my room. It relaxes me. And it seems to bother whoever comes to see me. A few try to be cool and identify what’s playing. And fail. Most times, it is the Dead or some other jam band, but there are times when I play dirty and play covers. Umphrey’s McGee playing Toto’s Africa. Or Leonard Nimoy playing CCR’s Proud Mary.

Anyway, Robert knew what was playing. We spoke about music and many other things. And he told me about his project—converting every Dylan song into a haiku. It’s just the kind of thing that makes a Mint on Sunday big story.

I know that sounds self-indulgent and shallow (although personally I think there is nothing shallow about Dylan), but it’s the kind of thing that some people want to read on Sundays (when there’s actually nothing to read in the papers or news sites).

Which is why I was thrilled when I received the following message from Sandipan Deb, one of the best writers whose work appears in Mint and Livemint.

“I have a totally weird idea. I was generally surfing and found that Amazon is offering the whole set of James Hadley Chase books (88 of them) for Rs6,870. I can do it, or someone else can do it, but imagine someone spending two months reading all those damn 88 books and writing about his/her experience! All that shit, and it can even be intellectualised and contextualised and literaturised! After all, George Orwell though thought Flesh of the Orchid was a great novel! And I think Chase’s biggest market (like Archie comics) was India. I don’t think too many people read him elsewhere. As you know, he was an Englishman who never visited the US, and wrote all his novels with the help of an American Slang Dictionary and map of Miami City (Paradise City in the books). What do you think?"

What do you think? I said yes.

R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.