‘LOOK INSIDE YOUR MIRROR’ – Review of: Nicola Menicacci: BOB DYLAN, L’ULTIMO CAVALIERE (‘BOB DYLAN, THE LAST CHEVALIER’) 2005, Riola (Bologna, Italy): Hermatena Edizioni, ISBN 88-88437-22-3, soft covers, 232 pp, EUR 19.00 Preface by Alberto Cesare Ambesi
Author of review: Christopher Rollason – September 2005
Bob Dylan’s work can be imagined as a hall of mirrors. Time and again the poet invites us into ‘a room full of covered-up mirrors’, and challenges us to take off the covers, gaze into the smiling mirror that is each song, and discover within it arcana, mysteries to be plumbed. Does Bob Dylan see his own songs as clearly as the listener who looks inside their mirror and has had their author on his mind? Such is the point of view favoured by a certain group among Dylan’s more loyal admirers, those who believe the songs are there to be endlessly interpreted – that they belong less to Dylan himself than to the listeners for whom they have become an indissociable part of their lives. Nicola Menicacci’s remarkable new study certainly comes from a Dylan fan of this stamp, and is a book addressed to the members of that special group of companions in interpretation.** Nicola Menicacci is already known in Dylan circles for his often daring and always absorbing readings of Dylan songs that have been published over the years on the Bob Dylan Critical Corner site. This volume (so far available only in Italian, though the author promises an English version), takes a particular period in Dylan’s songwriting – 1974-1989, from the Blood on the Tracks to the Oh Mercy songs – and reads the lyrics of those years in the light of a philosophical postulate. The postulate is that during that period – and essentially only that period, with a handful of exceptions before and after – Dylan’s songwriting is consistently coded in two layers of meaning – one on the surface, immediately accessible; the other, hidden and symbolic. As the author puts it in his introduction, this group of Dylan songs would then have the status of ‘messaggi cifrati’ (‘messages in cypher’ – 9). Nicola Menicacci argues that the symbolism which he deciphers (or de-cyphers) in these songs should be related to an esoteric belief-system to which, he contends, Bob Dylan secretly subscribed over those years. This system could approximately be described as pertaining to the alternative or counter-historical spiritual tradition, running against the grain of established Christianity of whatever stamp, that has manifested itself over the centuries in such movements or currents as Gnosticism, the Cathars, the Templars, the Grail cult, the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry, and in such sacred places as Jerusalem, Glastonbury in England and Rennes-le-Château in France. **
THE REST OF THIS REVIEW CAN BE FOUND AT: http://nicolamenicacci.com/bdcc/cavaliere.pdf**
It has also been published in the British Dylan fanzine THE BRIDGE – No 24, Spring 2006, pp. 94-102**
I add a link to Nicola Menicacci’s BLOG at: http://www.nicolamenicacci.com/board/: this blog, almost entirely in Italian, has more information about his book and its promotion and reception, as well as other more general cultural matters.**
The book has been well received in the Italian press – for details, see Nicola’s Press Room at: http://www.nicolamenicacci.com/bd/press.htm. Also on the site you can find Nicola’s promotional videos for the book – http://www.nicolamenicacci.com/bd/videos/ – in both Italian and English.
PHOTOS: Nicola’s book; Nicola at his parents’ home in Florence, Sept 2004 (photo by Chris Rollason); Nicola with Chris outside the Pendragon bookshop in Bologna, Sept 2004 (photo by Rosarita Cuccoli
Note added 15 September 2009:
This book was discussed in a text which appeared on 23 August 2007 in NY TID, a long-established and prestigious Swedish-language weekly based in Helsingfors, Finland (author: Sven-Erik Klinkmann; www.nytid.fi/arkiv/artikelnt-684-5167.html). See article on this blog for 14 September 2009.