“I dreamed I had dinner with Bob Dylan in a small dark restaurant with brick walls and candles,” writes Mary Lee Kortes in “Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob” (BMG Books, 160 pp., $24.99), a visually captivating book that features 115 dreams of Dylan lovers.
“The warmth in his eyes was a guide, a magnet,” she continues. “Without words, he let me know he liked me and my music, and, in that silent approval, encouraged me to keep going.”
Kortes — a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and author who has, in fact, had a recurring dream of dining with Dylan — will celebrate the release of the book at Hoboken’s Little City Books, Nov. 16. She will read excerpts and present a Dylan songfest with Hoboken’s Guitar Bar All Stars (James Mastro, Boo Reiners and Patrick Conlon) plus special guests Richard Barone, Warren Zanes, Dave Schramm, Glenn Mercer, Eric Ambel, Elena Skye, The Kennedys and Laura Cantrell. That’s a lot of talent gathered together in one bookstore.
In the forward of the book — which takes its title from Dylan’s surrealistic song, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” — Kortes describes the dreams as “alternately touching, funny, puzzling, wise, crude, tender, frightening, and romantic.”
“Freud was not prescient enough to envision the significance of recurrent Dylan dreams,” she said in a phone interview, laughing.
Kortes explained that her recurring dream of having dinner with Dylan “always left me feeling good, and in an excited bliss cloud because he tells me that I’m great and that he knows me and likes my music. These dreams encouraged me to continue.”
After hearing tales of others’ nighttime visits, she decided to give voice to these subconscious thoughts and longings. Her journey to collect these dreams turned into a compilation of exquisite pages illustrated by drawings and photographs by several artists, including Rina Root, Daniel Root and Dylan archivist Mitch Blank.
Kortes hoped that each dream would have its own look and form a “visual festival,” and found success through her book designer, Mark Melnick. Kortes explained that these dreams are a fair representation of what Dylan means to our waking lives, and said “if you have dreams, look at them and give voice to them and with some support and hard work those dreams might come true.”
This was the case for her. In 2002, Kortes released a live album featuring all the songs from Dylan’s classic Blood on the Tracks album. Her version of “You’re a Big Girl Now,” she says, “was on Dylan’s site for almost a year.” Later, he asked her to open for him.
She said of her dream realized: “It was amazing. It still doesn’t feel that real. It’s like a longing that doesn’t have to persist.”
In an email exchange, she added: “I opened for Bob at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC, 2003 in August, I think. The show went well. Bob had come on stage during sound check. He was standing towards the back of the stage with Tony Garnier (bass player in Dylan’s band) … I waved and wondered who the guy in the cowboy hat standing next to him was. Then I saw the eyes. Oh, it’s Bob Dylan. He tipped his hat to me. I tipped my invisible one back. I’m not sure what that feeling was, hard to recognize. But it was a very high degree of sensation. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew what not to do: don’t walk back there and talk to him. Then I thought, Default position: be professional. So, I turned around, got back on the mic and finished my soundcheck. And then he was gone. “
Kortes is still dreaming of Dylan. One of my favorite dreams in the book, titled “Wrong Key,” was written about a year and a half ago and describes an encounter with Dylan, who was playing in the wrong key at a rehearsal. She told Dylan the song should be played in D and he explained that he plays it in the key of I.
Another dreamer — M.C. Israel from Michigan, a favorite of Kortes — imagines that he is walking on a sidewalk, encounters Dylan behind him and takes off his shoe and bends his leg with his foot facing Dylan. Then, Israel says, “my foot started singing to him, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. ”
One of the dreamers imagines that Dylan takes her to the prom. Another receives an invitation to Dylan’s farm. One gets kissed by him; another had Dylan serve as his nurse.
Patti Smith says, in the book, that in 1971, she and Sam Shepard woke to discover that they both had had dreams of Dylan. She turned her dream into a nursery song and each time she performs it, she says, “I am transported to that very morning, when the winged dog of Bob Dylan flew into my dreams.”
Inspired to create by her grandmother, a pianist, Kortes thrived on early exposure to Gershwin and Cole Porter. She also fell in love with the songs of Burt Bacharach. “That’s what illuminated songwriting and singing as separate endeavors, separate arts for me. Hearing many singers do one song and, conversely, that one song done by many singers, gave you an education in both” she said.
Dylan has always been an iconic figure for her, she says, “present like oxygen.”
She says that Dylan looms large in the minds of poets, songwriters and music lovers due to the subtlety and the poetic power of his writing.
“Listen to the lyrics (in ‘Most of the Time’) when Dylan says, ‘I don’t compromise/And I don’t pretend/I don’t even care if I ever see her again/Most of the time.’ Those lyrics devastate me.”
Her latest song, “Dreaming of Him,” will be the subject of a video she just started shooting with her husband, Eric Ambel. Some of the themes from the book will be explored in the video.
The Little City Books event takes place at 7 p.m. Nov. 16. The $40 admission charge includes a signed hardcover copy of the book. Visit littlecitybooks.com.