I’m a cultural connectcion, building bridges between regions and cultures. I didn’t plan it this way, but it began in Tupelo, Mississippi, when our hometown hero Elvis Presley came back to do a concert. Seeing the young Elvis live changed my life, and gave me a lifelong love of rock and roll. That’s why I wrote “Rock Eras. Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984,” as well as my current book “Decoding Dylan. Making Sense of the Songs that Changed Modern Culture.”
But I’ve done other things in my life than listen to rock and roll. I received my PhD in Russian from Columbia University, and taught Russian at the University of Missouri for 31 years.
So…rock and roll and Russian literature. High culture and popular culture. It turned out that that was the perfect combination for writing about Dylan, because he too gives equal respect to high culture and popular culture,
What inspires you to write?
In a word, dissatisfaction. I find that I'm often dissatisfied with what people are saying about the work or an artist that I care about. Over the decades as I've listened to Dylan, I've been thinking that even his fans were missing some really important things about his songs. So I said them in "Decdoing Dylan."
Tell us about your writing process.
For "Decoding Dylan" I did a little bit of both. I knew that there were some topics that I wanted to discuss, and some sources that I wanted to cite. So I organized those, and started.
But I couldn't write the kinds of things I write without Wikipedia. It's really important to me to get names and dates right, and for that there's nothing like Wikipedia.
Who are your favorite authors?
Leo Tolstoy, "War and Peace"
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "The Brothers Karamazov"
William Faulkner, "Absolom, Absolom"
Don Winslow, "Savages"
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I did searches of publishers who publish books on popular culture.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Not much. Editors are stressed, and it shows in the way they treat authors.
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
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