[lit-ideas] Re: [lit-ideas] Re: [lit-ideas] Re: [lit-ideas] Culture Desk: Leonard Cohen’s “Going Home” : The New Yorker

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2012 17:05:20 +0000 (GMT)

 From: Andy <mimi.erva@xxxxxxxxx>


>Liking music is like being in love. The heart has reasons that reason cannot 
>know. >

This may be true or express something that has some truth in it - but, whatever 
degree of truth, it shouldn't necessarily be taken as a showing what is going 
on artistically cannot be evaluated in any kind of rational terms. A case in 

>One of the things I never liked about Dylan is that he exploits religious 
>imagery and people love it, maybe for the illusion of profundity it 
>gives. Imagine if he wrote "And Zeus said you'd better run".  Not quite the 
>same ring, even if the same idea. >

'Exploits' is a tendentious term - 'uses' might be better (should we say Dylan 
also 'exploits' toilet paper?). But the example does not support Andy's 
argument. It is only "religious imagery" in a very loose sense [as opposed to 
the specific kinds of religious imagery and allusion in lines like "If I die on 
top of the hill" or "She...took my crown of thorns" "...they gambled for my 
clothes"] - the sense in which anything relating to, or using, the term 'God' 
might be classed as "religious imagery". In the example, it is clear enough why 
'Zeus' would not work where 'God' is used - because Zeus did not tell Abraham 
to "kill me a son", and so the effect of using 'Zeus' would be to introduce an 
unnecessary mixing of characters and stories. It's more than it lacking the 
same ring - it is not "the same idea":- for Abraham has no reason to obey the 
dictates of Zeus as Zeus is not Abe's 'God' - and it is the blithe lack of 
reason behind Abe's obedience of his
 'God', except only the "reason" that 'God' is a threat if not obeyed, that is 
being satirised here. It is not an attack on religion so much as on a certain 
'God-fearing' attitude that some take as 'religious' and which, Dylan implies, 
has nothing to do with religion in the sense of a God who is merciful and just 
but everything to do with a humankind that is fearful and superstitious - for 
the 'God' here is a 'God-of-human-foibles' [like Zeus and the Greek Gods] with 
his vanity, temper and unreasoning demands, and his grandiosity is undercut by 
Dylan casting the exchanges in demotic hipster slang. 

It is not the "illusion of profundity" that makes this a great lyric, for Dylan 
is striving for no such "illusion" here, but Dylan's ability to so wittily and 
concisely express a certain critical POV within the apparent formula of a blues 


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