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Friday May 17, 2013

NEW YORK -- Michael Chabon had long been mystified by that Bob Dylan lyric about "midnight’s broken toe."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, the keynote speaker Wednesday at the annual induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was explaining his undiminished passion for rock music and confiding that he had become obsessed by the opening line to Dylan’s "Chimes of Freedom."

"Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toe."

The answer was both simple and embarrassing; Dylan was singing about "midnight’s broken toll," not toe.

"How many hours I had devoted to (the idea) ... that midnight had toes, and that one of them, the big one, had been broken," Chabon said.

Rock ‘n roll was officially welcomed by the 115-year-old academy, home to some of the country’s leading writers, composers, painters and sculptors. On Wednesday, Dylan became the first rock star inducted.

Dylan, also chosen as an honorary member, thought enough of the academy to accept entry. But anticipation -- wishful thinking -- that he might turn up ended early in the two-hour ceremony. Dylan has been touring, architect and academy president Henry N. Cobb announced, and sent his regrets in a statement thanking the academy and adding that he looked "forward to meeting all of you, sometime soon."