Bob Dylan can be a real baby

Dear Readers,

We’re delighted to present Recommended Reading Vol. 1, No. 3, guest edited by Jim Shepard:

“We park in front of my mom’s house, my mom who has been waiting for us at the door, probably since dawn. Her hello carries over the lawn. Bob Dylan opens the car door, stretches one leg and then the other. He wears a black leather coat, and has spent the entire ride from New York trying to remember the name of a guitarist he played with in Memphis. I pull our bags from the trunk.

‘You always pack too much,’ I say.”

Editor’s Note — Jim Shepard:

I haven’t been as won over by a story as completely as I was by Marie-Helene Bertino’s “North of” in years. I loved it of course for its deadpan comedy, much of which centers around its celebrity co-star Bob Dylan’s self-absorbed obliviousness. His mostly unswerving focus on whatever keeps him happy and comfortable in the moment — whether it’s a well-cooked string bean or a search for Tootsie Rolls — is an inspired counterpoint to everyone else’s emotional maelstrom: the narrator’s brother, a roil of resentment and rage and contempt for himself and everyone else; her mother, whose expectations have now shrunk to the hope that they can pull off one Thanksgiving meal without a blowup; and the narrator herself, with her perpetual desire to please, who performed the double fuck-yous of becoming a success and staying away, and knows it.

What happens when someone in the family has to be worked around, like an unexploded bomb? What happens to your sense of your own achievements in terms of negotiating life, in the presence of a sibling who’s always seemed more gifted, and more powerful, and who has nevertheless refused to succeed? Well, don’t look at me, when it comes to answers. But if you’d like to see how beautifully those kinds of questions can be articulated — or staged — check out this story.

About Recommended Reading:

Great authors inspire us. But what about the stories that inspire them? Recommended Reading, a magazine by Electric Literature, publishes one story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.

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Elissa Goldstein was born and raised in Melbourne. She currently resides in Brooklyn, where she is the Online Editor of Electric Literature. You can find her here.

About the Author

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