NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS
“I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.” With that snarl of a line, Bob Dylan, playing electric guitar and backed by an electric band, made music history at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Those who came to hear Dylan’s folk songs couldn’t believe their ears. His set was the loudest ever played at the festival, and it just might be the most contentious.
As Elijah Wald writes in his new book, “Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties” (Dey Street), “For people who had never heard a loud rock show — which is to say, almost everyone there — the volume was shocking, exhilarating, or excruciating. ‘It was Godawful loud,’ Maria Muldaur recalled. “To me it was exciting . . . but lots of people freaked out. They just couldn’t stand it.”
It was 50 years ago this Saturday that Dylan’s electric performance was greeted with boos, disbelief, and a few cheers. To piece together his account, Wald, who was just a boy at the time of Dylan’s piercing performance, listened to tapes, watched film footage of the festival, and talked to festivalgoers. Wald, a musician himself and the author of books about Delta blues, Mexican drug ballads, and American popular music, will present a multimedia “Dylan Goes Electric” workshop at the festival on July 26. He’ll talk about what really happened that night and the impact Dylan’s electric set had on the Newport Folk Festival itself.
Even Providence’s signature public art has a dark side in “Providence Noir” (Akashic), which includes a story called “WaterFire’s Smell Tonight” by Pablo Rodriguez. Each tale in this anthology edited by Ann Hood is set in a different part of the city. Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s story takes place at Trinity Repertory Company. Thomas Cobb, whose novel “Crazy Heart” was made into a movie with Jeff Bridges, tees up at Triggs Memorial Golf Course, and “Dumb and Dumber” co-writer and co-director Peter Farrelly, a graduate of Providence College, sets his story in the Elmhurst neighborhood, near his old college stomping grounds.
Massmouth, a nonprofit that promotes live storytelling, holds an All-Stars Benefit Show at 7 p.m. July 20 at Passim in Cambridge. Winners and finalists from Massmouth’s story slams will tell a five-minute version of their stories. Proceeds benefit the StoriesLive program, the school-based storytelling program designed by Norah Dooley, co-founder of Massmouth and the Greater Boston Story Slam series.
Dooley herself will perform in what promises to be a bittersweet evening. She’s stepping down after more than six years as Massmouth’s unpaid executive director. She’s looking forward to leaving arts administration and being, as she wrote in an e-mail, a “working artist, freelance facilitator and agitator/instigator.”
She has a full schedule of performances this summer, including appearances, sponsored by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, as Mary Read, a cross-dressing 18th-century pirate.
■ “Love Lies Beneath” by Ellen Hopkins (Atria)
■ “The Novel Habits of Happiness” by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon)
■ “The Devil’s Bag Man” by Adam Mansbach (Harper Voyager)
Amelia Stymacks of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., recommends “Bell Weather” by Dennis Mahoney (Holt): “Set in a fantastical 18th-century world where rain falls up and storms wash the land with bright hues, this is the story of Molly, a spirited young woman fighting for the freedom to choose her own path. Readers learn about her childhood with an overbearing governess, a cold father, and a brilliant, cunning brother who will stop at nothing to ensure that he and Molly are together and unbridled.”
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