The accusation is ‘plagiarism’. Dylan has painted from photographs which are not his own but which he has, apparently, downloaded from a photographer’s website. Now, Dylan has form. He comes from the folk tradition, where songs are ‘shared’. He has frequently incorporated other people’s lines into his own songs, invariably without attribution, although given the academic scrutiny to which each new Bob album is subjected, the connections are usually in the public domain within a couple of days.
In the past, one has justified this habit with a flip reference to Eliot (‘talent borrows, genius steals’) and an understanding that Bob is making something more of the original. But it is becoming more prevalent in Bob’s later work and, in the case of the recent paintings, I don’t see the point: nothing was delivered. Except a load more canvases to the Gargosian gallery.
It is shoddy and it is lazy. I’m not angry, Bob; I’m disappointed.
The case of Peter Mayle is less clear. The parallels between the two books are obvious, but I’m not sure that they are even conscious, never mind deliberate. Having now read Perfume from Provence, of which I had not previously been aware, it seems to me that Lady Fortescue’s delightful tales of her life in France between the wars, her engagement with the village, and her relationships with macons and plombiers are themselves stereotypical.
The resemblances between Fortescue and Mayle, more than fifty years apart, are significant in that they demonstrate the un-changing nature of ex-patriot life in the south. We have the same pre-occupations and inconveniences, the same romantic idealism and experiences.
I know this because, in these blogs, I have not mentioned a continuing feature of this summer: the need to get our central heating working before the weather breaks. Had this concern not been a central motif of Mayle’s book and, I now discover, an equally prominent topic in Lady Fortescue’s, I would have regaled you with stories of an infinite number of trips to an unprepossessing zone industrielle in Nîmes to exchange one circulateur for another, to find a differently-sized washer, to thumb through photo-copied lists of parts required by one boiler or another, to source an adapter kit. Claud, the warehouseman, and I are now firm friends and he has agreed that, in fact, he cannot help. And the (refund) cheque is in the post.
I haven’t written about this because it is too close to Peter Mayle’s story. But had I done so, it wouldn’t have been because I was plagiarising. It would have been because, in this respect at least, we were living parallel lives.
The same, but different.
Today’s listening: Bert Jansch. RIP.