Language on the Lam(b):
Tarantula in Dylan and
DAVID GOLDBLATT and EDWARD NECARSULMER IV
Some of Bob Dylan's best work is sweet and plain, simple and direct. While adept at the deep language of pain, personal and political, Dylan is rarely self-pitying or indulgent. Staying above the fray, his deadpan voice is a paradigm of indifference to the subject matter of his lyrics, cross-grained to their content and melody. Then there are his songs that are open to wide interpretation, as if they were everybody's autobiography. For yet others, powerful though they may be, something is happening here but you don't know what it is. However, with the possible exception of some early liner notes, nothing Dylan has done thus far comes as close to a radical departure from an ordinary read than his book Tarantula. Tarantula contains ribbons of language that are at once extraordinarily imaginative while at first and further glances incapable of explanation.
It is Dylan's best show at being very, very funny.
One hundred and twenty-five years or so before Spider-Man (the movie), the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) wrote “The Tarantulas” as one of the more important sections of his most widely read book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for No One and for Everyone (the full title). In this chapter we'd like to explain what makes Tarantula work when it does and to compare it with certain aspects of Nietzsche's book, especially and obviously “The Tarantulas.”1
1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (New York: Viking, 1966), pp.