Dylan, Desire and “Isis”

On the 45th Anniversary of a Classic

In 1976, my mother, recently divorced, broke up painfully and protractedly with her first real boyfriend since the collapse of her marriage to my father. I turned thirteen that May, and her birthday present to me was Desire. It was my first Dylan album. I had been talking for a while about this song I’d heard, only once, playing over the speakers in a Washington, D.C., bookstore sometime during the preceding winter. I stood there in the aisle, with a science fiction novel in my hand, trying to catch the lyrics, to guess the singer, to figure out what the hell was happening in the story. I remembered the song like a promising face, vividly and erroneously, for months afterward, without hearing it again, until I unwrapped the disc my mother handed me and put it on the turntable.

Berkeley, California