Tarantula

by Bob Dylan
(1971)
   Drafted in late 1964 and early 1965, bootlegged from early promo copies in 1966, commercially released by Macmillan in 1971, bob dylan’s Tarantula is a confounding text that, like much of the best work of Dylan, defies expectations and facile explication. Debate in regard to what genre it inhabits has roiled from the time of its clandestine release. It has been variously deemed a novel (Shelton 1986/1997), poems (St Martin’s 1994 reissue), and “a book of words” (Heylin 1991). Joan Baez at one time suggested an alternative title for the collection: “Fuck You.” Dylan himself seems to have taken up the composition of Tarantula as an open-ended commercial and artistic opportunity. His contract for the book appears to have been signed prior to settling on a fully conceived notion of how its content might be manifested—in May 1964 he described the book as “pictures and words” that focus on Hollywood. Dylan’s writing, and especially his writing in the mid-1960s, was clearly influenced by the Beats, never more transparently so than in Tarantula. Ann Charters excerpted a part of it in her The Portable Beat Reader (1992). Dylan’s first serious discussion in regard to publishing his work was with lawrence ferlinghetti and City Lights in 1963. Liner notes that support his album releases, beginning with The Times They Are a-Changin’ in 1963, exhibited Dylan’s propensity for free-form verse and the exercise of jack kerouac’s spontaneous prose method. Dylan’s composing process in Tarantula was clearly indebted to William S. Burroughs’s cutup techniques. Speaking in early 1965 about Tarantula (then tentatively titled “Bob Dylan Off the Record”), Dylan asks interviewer Paul Jay Robbins of the LA Free Press whether he “dig[s] something like cutups” and describes his writing as “[s]omething that had no rhyme, all cut up, no nothing except something happening which is words.” Dylan’s propensity for exaggerated American plain-speak and his carnivalesque description of “atomic fag bars being looted and Bishops disguised as chocolate prisoners” is deeply redolent of naked luncH–era Burroughs. Dylan’s exposure in 1960 to Kerouac’s mexico city Blues appears also to have had a bearing on both its free-form verse and the Spanish language and bordertown episodes of Tarantula’s fractured narrative.
   Perhaps the clearest line between the Beats and the Dylan of this period might be drawn between Tarantula and gregory corso’s The Happy BirtHday of deatH (1960), opening as it does: “Lady of the legless world I have refused to go beyond selfdisappearance.” Tarantula, which road-tests hundreds of personas and masks, behind any of which might lurk (or not) “Bob Dylan,” is as much a book about self-abrogation as revelation. It is one of Dylan’s earliest exercises in “self-disappearance.” Corso makes a cameo appearance late in Tarantula: “I could tell at a glance that he had no need for Sonny Rollins but I asked him anyway ‘whatever happened to gregory corso?’ ” Much of the language, syntax, and headlong velocity of Tarantula seems to be channeling Corso’s “bomb,” with its “tomahawk Cochise flintlock Kidd dagger Rathbone,” its suggestion that “To die by cobra is not to die by bad pork,” and its clear nod to Rimbaud and French symbolist poetry.
 Bibliography
■ Corso, Gregory. Mindfield: New & Selected Poems. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 1989.
■ Hajdu, David. Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña. New York: North Point, 2001.
■ Heylin, Clinton. Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades. New York: Summit, 1991.
■ Shelton, Robert. No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. New York: Da Capo, 1997.
   Tracy Santa

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tarantula — ! Pour les articles homonymes, voir Tarantula (homonymie). Tarantula ! Titre original Tarantula Réalisation Jack Arnold Acteurs principaux John Agar Leo G. Carroll …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tarantula! — Tarantula ! Pour les articles homonymes, voir Tarantula (homonymie). Tarantula ! Titre original Tarantula Réalisation Jack Arnold Acteurs principaux John Agar Leo G. Carroll …   Wikipédia en Français

  • tarantulă — TARANTÚLĂ, tarantule, s.f. Specie de păianjen mare (din ţările meridionale) a cărui înţepătură este veninoasă (Lycosa tarentula). [var.: tarantélă s.f.] – fr. tarentule. Trimis de pan111, 10.05.2004. Sursa: DLRM  TARANTÚLĂ, tarantule, s.f.… …   Dicționar Român

  • Tarantula — Ta*ran tu*la, n.; pl. E. {Tarantulas}, L. {Tarantul[ae]}. [NL., fr. It. tarantola, fr. L. Tarentum, now Taranto, in the south of Italy.] (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of several species of large spiders, popularly supposed to be very venomous, especially… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tarántula — araña venenosa, Lycosa tarantula, a cuya picadura se atribuye el tarantismo. Su veneno se utiliza como remedio homeopático fotografía [véase http://www.iqb.es/diccio/t/ta.htm#tarantula] Diccionario ilustrado de Términos Médicos.. Alvaro Galiano.… …   Diccionario médico

  • taràntula — ž 1. {{001f}}zool. otrovan pauk (Tarantula fasciiventris, Lycosa tarantula) iz porodice vučjaka (Lycosidae); taranta 2. {{001f}}zool. vrsta gušterice iz porodice Gekkonidae; macaklin 3. {{001f}}rib. trostruka manja mreža stajaćica …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

  • tarantula — 1560s, wolf spider, (Lycos tarantula), from M.L. tarantula, from It. tarantola, from Taranto Taranto, seaport city in southern Italy in the region where the spiders are frequently found, from L. Tarentum, from Gk. Taras (gen. Tarantos; perhaps… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tarantula — taràntula ž DEFINICIJA 1. zool. otrovan pauk (Tarantula fasciiventris, Lycosa tarantula) iz porodice vučjaka (Lycosidae); taranta, tarantela 2. zool. vrsta gušterice iz porodice Gekkonidae; macaklin 3. rib. trostruka manja mreža stajaćica… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • tarántula — (Del lat. tarantŭla, de Tarentum, la ciudad de Tarento). f. Araña muy común en el mediodía de Europa, principalmente en los alrededores de Tarento, en Italia, y cuyo cuerpo, de unos tres centímetros de largo, es negro por encima, rojizo por… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • tarántula — sustantivo femenino 1. Familia Lycosidae. Araña bastante grande, de color oscuro con rayas claras, que vive entre piedras o en agujeros y tiene una picadura venenosa y muy dolorosa: Sobre la tarántula existen varias leyendas …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Tarantŭla — Tarantŭla, 1) s. Tarantel; 2) von Fabricius aufgestellte Gattung aus der Familie der Scherenfüße bei Cuv, (der Scorpione bei Goldfuß); der Unterleib ist mit dem Bruchstück durch ein Stielchen verbunden, es fehlen aber die Kämme, u. der… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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