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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bob Dylan poems discovered.

Julie Bosman, in the International Herald Tribune, writes that Barry Feinstein, the rock 'n' roll photographer, when digging idly through his archives, came across a long-forgotten bundle of pictures, comprising dozens of dark, moody snapshots of Hollywood in the early 1960s.

With the photograph collection was a set of prose poems, written around the same time by an old friend: Bob Dylan.

In November, after more than 40 years, the text and photographs will be published in Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: The Lost Manuscript.

It is the latest installment in Dylan's seemingly never-ending body of work, which includes more than 50 albums, a critically acclaimed autobiography and a recently published collection of arty sketches called Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series.

The new book, to be published by Simon & Schuster, includes more than 75 of Feinstein's photographs and 23 of Dylan's prose poems, which are each marked alphabetically to correspond to a photo.

The book was created during a period in the 1960s when Feinstein was a 20-something "flunky" at a movie studio. He roamed around movie sets, snapping pictures backstage and in dressing rooms, and during off hours he drove around Hollywood with his camera in tow.

The result is a collection of pictures that are sometimes dreary and sometimes tongue-in-cheek, shots of movie props and roadside stands, topless starlets and headless mannequins. In one photo a young woman, visible only from the ankles down, crouches on Sophia Loren's star at Grauman's Chinese Theater, a hand pressed onto the cement. In another photo a parking lot at 20th Century Fox, marked by a large sign for "Talent," is completely empty.

After assembling the photographs, Feinstein thought of Dylan, whom he had met before on the East Coast. "I asked him as a joke, 'Wanna come out and maybe write something about these photographs?"' Feinstein said. "So he came out and wrote some text."

Dylan, then in his 20s, arrived in Hollywood, examined the photographs and wrote his own prose poems to accompany them.

No one involved in the book can recall exactly when Dylan wrote the poems, which are by turns sparse, playful, witty and sarcastic. In the text accompanying a photo of Marlene Dietrich appearing stricken at Gary Cooper's funeral in 1961, Dylan wrote: "I dare not ask your sculpturer's name/with glance back hooked, time's hinges halt."

After the photos and text were pulled together into a rough manuscript, Dylan and Feinstein took it to a publisher, Macmillan, where executives expressed interest but were afraid that the pictures would bring a lawsuit from the studio.

So the manuscript was put aside, and Feinstein kept it for more than four decades in his vast collection of photographs, books and other papers.

"I knew it was an important document," he said. "So I kept it in the back of my head all that time."

Through his manager, Jeff Rosen, Dylan declined to comment on the book, and he is not expected to promote it.

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