'I don’t believe you...you’re a liar': the fabulatory function of Bob Dylan

Coley, Rob (2015) 'I don’t believe you...you’re a liar': the fabulatory function of Bob Dylan. In: Refractions of Dylan: cultural appropriations of an American icon. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719097164

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Bob Dylan is a true liar. From the moment of his transformative arrival in New York he refused to “cough up some facts” and instead, as he writes in Chronicles, folk music taught him the art of “un-truth”. The protean 1960s Dylan was, himself, a life story. In interviews, he set forth on ludic experiments, playing games with impressions of his past and perceptions of his present, employing ‘powers of the false’ or what Deleuze calls ‘fabulation’. Through this invention, Dylan entered into a ‘becoming-other’ where identity becomes unfixed and thrust into continuous indetermination, and where distinct categories (poet, story-teller, musician) are subverted through movement into a “continuum of coexisting possibilities” (Bogue, 2010), which we might otherwise call the virtual.

Today, however, the virtual is increasingly enclosed by network technologies, and ‘Mister Jones’ now understands only too well what is happening here. The complex structure of contemporary power is pre-emptive: it implements ‘fictions that make themselves real’ (Ccru, 2004), it rationalizes and ‘imagineers’ the ‘totalized’ virtual; the creative labourers of informational-capitalism are mined for their potential, for their ‘invention-power’ (Virno, 2004). Unbound and mutative, it would seem contemporary power has appropriated its own “Bob Dylan mask”. Yet, even as flows of Dylanesque experimental desire are co-opted as a productive force and systematically archived, the 1960s Dylan still offers some opportunities for resistance, some means for entering into Nietzsche’s “vaporous region of the unhistorical”.

It’s Dylan’s game-like approach to life that enables the formation of ‘transversal’ counter-realities, an action that Brian Massumi (1992) has dubbed “revolutionary side-stepping”. Here, Dylan’s image, his myth, takes on its own life, one with a ‘fabulatory function’ (Deleuze, 1997). The heterogeneous web of connections created by him, his audience, his fans – and further, created as intercessors to each other – project a myth that resists appropriation, one that engages with other immanent virtuals yet to be enclosed. In the contemporary world where action has been nihilistically reduced to reaction, the Dylan-myth – operating through the fabulation-machine of this transversal encounter – becomes a voyant or seer, “telescoping things” as Dylan writes in Chronicles. Perhaps then, even within a supposedly totalizing structure, it is possible for characters and landscapes to be empowered with “giant dimensions as if they were swollen by a life that no lived perception can attain” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1994).

Keywords:Bob Dylan, Deleuze, fabulation
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W300 Music
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
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ID Code:5927
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 19:18

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