Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dylan adds rock 'n' roll to elite academy

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NEW YORK -- Michael Chabon had long been mystified by that Bob Dylan lyric about "midnight's broken toe."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, the keynote speaker Wednesday at the annual induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was explaining his undiminished passion for rock music and confiding that he had become obsessed by the opening line to Dylan's Chimes of Freedom.

"Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toe."

The answer was both simple and embarrassing; Dylan was singing about "midnight's broken toll," not toe.

"How many hours I had devoted to (the idea) ... that midnight had toes, and that one of them, the big one, had been broken," Chabon said.

Rock 'n' roll was officially welcomed by the 115-year-old academy, an "honour society" proud to call itself elite and home to some of the country's leading writers, composers, painters and sculptors. On Wednesday, Dylan became the first rock star inducted, joining a membership that includes E.L. Doctorow, Chuck Close and John Ashbery.

Chabon, giving an address delivered in previous years by Robert Frost and E.M. Forster among others, said "Song lyrics have arguably mattered more to me" than writers of prose and poetry. Chabon's latest novel, Telegraph Avenue, is set in part at a record store.

Chabon, who turns 50 this month, was voted in last year and returned Wednesday to give the keynote talk, known as the Blashfield Address.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2013 D3

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