Minnesota’s second literary Nobelist is the subject of The Political World of Bob Dylan: Freedom and Justice, Power and Sin, a perceptive book by our porchite colleague Jeff Taylor. Herewith my two cents. I was gonna link to one of my favorite Dylan songs, “Cross the Green Mountain,” which I take to be the death-dream of Stonewall Jackson, but all I can find online is the truncated three-minute version. Find the eight-minute original, which Dylan wrote for Ron Maxwell’s Civil War film Gods and Generals. So, for your listening pleasure, something else: Kirsty MacColl would have been 57 years old this week. Composer of the pop gem “They Don’t Know,” MacColl died while saving her son in a motorboat accident in December 2000. Here’s her lovely cover of “A New England.”

Previous articleHillary’s Communitarian Moment, and Ours
Next articleBack There Where the Past Was
Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman was born on November 15 (also the birthday of Bobby Dandridge) in the otherwise forgettable year of 1959. He was an all-star Little League shortstop for the Lions Club Cubs but soon thereafter his talents eroded. After an idyllic childhood in his ancestral home of Batavia, New York, birthplace of Anti-Masonry, he was graduated from Batavia High School in 1977. He earned, more or less, a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1981 and went therefrom to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only dairy farmer in the U.S. Senate. Two and a half years later he left Moynihan’s staff a bohemian Main Street anarchist who loved the Beats, the New England transcendentalists, early 20th century local colorists (Sarah Orne Jewett his Maine gal), cowpunk music, and the crazy old America. Neil Diamond and Karen Carpenter, too, but don’t tell anyone. He bummed around out west for a while, sleeping in bus stations and writing derivative poetry in Salt Lake City flophouses (nah, he’s not a Mormon, just a BYU fan) before an ill-starred year in graduate school at the UR. He took a seminar with Christopher Lasch and thought on it. In the spring of 1985 he flew west to become an assistant editor with Reason magazine. He had great fun in Santa Barbara with that crew of congenial editors drinking far into the night at Eddie Van Cleeve’s Sportsman’s Lounge, but in ’86 he flew east to become the magazine’s Washington editor. Always homesick, Kauffman persuaded his lovely and talented wife Lucine, a Los Angelena, to move back to Batavia in 1988 in what he called a “one-year experiment”—the year to be measured, apparently, in Old Testament terms. They’re still there—or, more accurately, five miles north in Elba (apt name for an exile!), where Lucine is Town Supervisor. She may well be the highest-ranking Armenian-American elected official in the country, at least until the voters of California send Cher to the U.S. Senate. Take that, Turks! Lucine and Bill have a daughter, Gretel, 17, who writes and acts and plays piano and French horn. Their lab mutt, Victoria, whose tail graces the accompanying photo, is now departed, to their sorrow, but a cat, Duffy, darts in and out of the house when the mood strikes. Bill is the author of nine books: Every Man a King (Soho Press/1989), a novel, which was recently rescued from the remainder bin by a New York Sun article proclaiming it the best political satire of the last century (the Sun thereupon set); Country Towns of New York (McGraw-Hill/1994), a travel book about God’s country; America First! Its History, Culture and Politics (Prometheus/1995), a cultural history of isolationism which Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic called the best introduction to the American anti-imperialist tradition; With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America (Praeger/1998), his worst-seller, a sympathetic account of critics of highways, school consolidation, a standing army, and the Siren Progress; Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt/2003; Picador ppb. 2004), a memoirish book about his hometown which won the 2003 national “Sense of Place” award from Writers & Books; Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (ISI/2006), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006 and which won the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award; Ain’t My America: The Long Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (Henry Holt/ Metropolitan/2008), which Barnes & Noble named one of the best books of 2008; Forgotten Founder: Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI/2008), a biography of a brilliant dipsomaniacal Anti-Federalist who warned us this was gonna happen; and Bye Bye, Miss American Empire (Chelsea Green/2010), a cheerful account of dissolution. Bill is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for The American Conservative. He has written for numerous publications, including The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, Chronicles, the Independent and The Spectator of London, Counterpunch, Orion, University Bookman, and Utne Reader. He is vice president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn Baseball League. Come summertime, he can be found in the 3rd base bleachers at Dwyer Stadium. He is also active in the officerless (of course) John Gardner Society. Bill is more handsome than the photo on this site would suggest. See books written by Bill Kauffman.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Kudos to Mr. Kauffman on his essay in the American Conservative entitled “The Meaning of America First”. Perhaps it was the King Tide that produced it , but once in a very great while now, the various mediums, and I do mean mediums of the cheekily christened Information Age actually leak a cogent thought and Mr. Kauffman’s essay, as usual is one of them.

    Any mention of the hushed up Farewell Address these days should be greeted by cheers and a round of personal poisons all around. Its as though the ghost of the Marquis de Sade has arisen and is conducting new plays but not with the inmates of the asylum at Charenton . Rather, his new cast of crazies are the various grifters along the Potomac and their camp followers on Cable Telly.

  2. Ah, Kirsty MacColl — that’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile. I remember hearing about her death (late 90’s?) and being quite saddened. In addition to her own fine music she should be remembered as half the duet in one of the greatest Christmas pop songs ever, The Pogues “Fairytale of New York.”

  3. I almost always grouse that a movie is not as good as the book or isn’t showing history the way it is documented to have really happened. But “Gods and Generals” was one of the worst such movies ever produced. The book focused equally and evenly, in some depth and complexity and nuance, on four officers who became generals: Robert E. Lee, Winfield Scott Hancock, Thomas J. Jackson, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The movie devoted about two thirds of its attention to a cardboard caricature of Robert E. Lee that failed to live up to the man’s good or bad points, one fourth to Jackson, humanizing him with utter lack of realism, and some bit parts about Hancock and Chamberlain, with darn little background, especially for Hancock. Jeff Taylor is worth reading, but I just don’t have much interest in Dylan.

Comments are closed.