Dedication Of Joyce Carol Oates
Short Story To Dylan

Things Twice
Originally compiled: August 31, 1997
Last revised: August 31, 1997
Why did Joyce Carol Oates dedicate her 1966 short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? to Bob Dylan?

From: Rob Davidson (
Subject: Joyce Carol Oates & Bob Dylan
Date: 1996/04/08

In the fall of 1966 Joyce Carol Oates published a short story entitled Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? The story is dedicated To Bob Dylan. After hearing Oates read a couple of years ago, I asked her why that story was dedicated to Dylan. Was it because the story's title, a ref to A Hard Rain...?

Oates said the real reason she dedicated the story to Dylan was because she'd been inspired to write the story after listening to It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. As soon as she said that, it made a lot of sense to me. The short story (which is an excellent short story in its own right) has some, perhaps, exlicit ties to Dylan's song. Lines from Dylan's song like

The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore

are obvious in the short story. But there are other, more intuitive connections as well. More to do with the mood and tone of the story and some of the subtle observations Oates makes about popular music and its effects on kids (she is not preaching). And, I think it should be said, Oates probably views the quality of Dylan's songwriting as an antidote, rather than a poison.

For those interested in checking this connection, Oates's story appears in her short story collections The Wheel of Love (Fawcett Crest/Vanguard Press) and Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories (Ontario Review Press).

Rob Davidson

From: Michael Ditmore (
Subject: Joyce Carol Oates & Bob Dylan
Date: 1996/04/10

I had the opportunity to teach the Oates story this term; it was the first time I'd read it. But I found there was much more to the Dylan connection. Some critics have argued that we should also think about "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Like a Rolling Stone." Also toward the end, Friend says simply, "I want you." Hm.

I myself would add "Subterranean Homesick Blues": When Friend blows up at his buddy in the car, he says, "Don't hem in on me. Don't hog. Don't crush. Don't bird dog. Don't trail me . . . Don't crawl under my fence, don't squeeze in my chipmunk hole, don't sniff my glue, suck my popsicle, keep your own greasy fingers on yourself!"

Michael G. Ditmore

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