“When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time — that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ’n’ roll personified — volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution — when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30 or 40,000 of them. If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There’s never been a preacher like him. He could fill football stadiums before anybody. He could fill Giants Stadium more than even the Giants football team. Seems like a long time ago. Long before Mick Jagger sang his first note or Bruce strapped on his first guitar — that’s some of the part of rock ’n’ roll that I retained. I had to. I saw Billy Graham in the flesh and heard him loud and clear.”
~Bob Dylan speaking to AARP magazine in 2015
BILL FLANAGAN: You really give a heroic performance of O’ LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM The way you do it reminds me a little of an Irish rebel song. There’s something almost defiant in the way you sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I don’t want to put you on the spot, but you sure deliver that song like a true believer. BOB DYLAN: Well, I am a true believer.
~Bob Dylan speaking to Bill Flanagan about the “Christmas in the Heart” album. The album benefits homeless charities and this interview was published in the UK in the “Big Issue” magazine which helps unemployed and homeless people to rehabilitate.
In 2009, Bob Dylan released an album of traditional Christmas songs. Since then I’ve written about it on three occasions and I thought that I had nothing more to say on the subject but then I read a couple of comments that I didn’t really understand and it got me to ruminating on the album again.
What: A Christmas Carol, adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens
Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
When: December 2017
How can you go wrong with “A Christmas Carol” at Christmastime? The most famous of Charles Dickens’ five major Christmas novellas, well-loved by the nation and the Western world at large. Well, somehow the RSC have managed to make a mess of it all.
Amongst my many other failings, I read too much. Way too much.
To indulge myself and for anyone who might actually read this, I thought I’d make a list of some of my favourite authors (in no particular order):
GK Chesterton…. Love his philosophical and thoughtful stuff. I recently read “The Man who was Thursday” which is kind of a supernatural adventure story or something indefinable. His 1911 book the Napoleon of Notting Hill makes much mention of Ravenscourt Park. I look out on Ravenscourt Park every morning.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn….. Someone who rose in prominence primarly because of his opposition to Soviet Russia and who has faded just as dramatically since that is no longer a issue. I began reading him back in the day with A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. His later work is largely ignored since he is no longer politically significant. The later version of August 1914, The Red Wheel Knot 1 (published in the 1980s, not the earlier incomplete version from the 1970s) may just be his masterpiece.
William Shakespeare…. Not well known but a good playwright with potential. He just needs the right breaks. Joking aside I love to go and see his plays performed in Stratford-Upon-Avon which is one of my favourite places on the whole planet right now and chock full of good memories. King Lear, MacBeth, Merchant of Venice, The Winters Tale are my favourites probably in that order
Arthur Miller…… I love All My Sons, View From a Bridge, Death of a Salesman but also his later stuff which curiously is not often performed. At one point a few years ago, he decided to open many of his new dramas in London’s West End which suited me down to the ground. Great debuts ensued for plays like the Ride Down Mount Morgan and Broken Glass (which I think he revised before his death). I also enjoyed his short story, Plain Girl
Malcolm Muggeridge…… The most important journalist of the 20th century. I own all of his books bar one. If anyone has a spare copy of “Next Years News” (written with Hugh Kingsmill in 1937, I think) please send it to me. I will pay you generously. Great books, very important and woefully neglected. Three Flats, Picture Palace, Winter in Moscow, Conversion, In a Valley of this Restless Mind, Affairs of the Heart, London a la Mode, I could go on and on and probably will at some juncture.
Charles Williams… A cohort of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien but less well known. And a better writer for my money. Particularly like his novels which include Descent into Hell and Place of the Lion.
Philip K. Dick….. A believable futuristic science fiction from a man who lost his mind. Claustrophobic stories from a future world which are so intoxicating.
Shusaku Endo…. Japanese author. I’ve read most everything of his that has been translated into English. Amongst his best are The Girl I Left Behind, Wonderful Fool and Silence
Charles Dickens…. when he’s good, he is very good. Could go far with the right backing. Joking aside, I enjoy Great Expectations, The Christmas Carol and a number of his others (but not all)
Current reading – Peter Cook “Tragically, I was an only twin”, Geza Vermes “The Nativity”, Philip K. Dick “Flow my tears, the Policeman said”.