Dear Reader,

In his review of Greil Marcus’s new book on The Basement Tapes [Rock, Etc., June 13], Mark Swartz seems a lot more interested in championing Bob Dylan’s later work (an issue barely tangential to Marcus’s book) than in actually addressing, or even understanding, the book itself. (His misreading of the mask idea is pretty profound.) I was reminded of a quote from Max Ernst: “The fairy tale of the artist’s creativity is Western culture’s last superstition.” “When great artists start to suck,” Swartz writes, “they’re probably just up to something you haven’t figured out yet.” Gee, maybe I shouldn’t have sold that copy of Street Legal. The last thing we need rock criticism to be doing is encouraging listeners to adopt a proper attitude of reverence towards musicians/artists. But much worse: To level out Bob Dylan’s career in this way, to insist that his output since 1968 represents “a quarter century of genius” (when in fact it sucks), is to make his truly amazing work (Highway 61 Revisited, the ’66 Hawks tour, The Basement Tapes) disappear.

Dale Lawrence