new Bob Dylan Books

Oh sure, I'll probably buy copies eventually. My bookshelf would feel lonely otherwise.

Bob Dylan Encyclopedia
Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

Bob Dylan : The Essential Interviews (Jonathan Cott)
“Bob Dylan : The Essential Interviews” (Jonathan Cott)

Books of the Times | 'Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews'; 'The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia': How Does It Feel? Dylan on Everything, Everything on Dylan The life of Bob Dylan is examined in an irresistible new anthology edited by Jonathan Cott and in a heavy, utterly idiosyncratic compendium by Michael Gray.

...The mosaic of discussions found here (very first question: “Bob Dylan, you must be 20 years old now”) is many things: biography, oral history, cultural time capsule, music lesson and psychodrama. It expands upon the mesmerizing portrait of Mr. Dylan that both his memoir, “Chronicles, Volume 1,” and Martin Scorsese's documentary “No Direction Home” have lately provided.

Arranged chronologically, these interviews vary wildly. That accounts for much of their cumulative appeal. A lot depends upon who was asking the questions and how combative or cooperative Mr. Dylan happened to be feeling. “What do you think of people who analyze your songs?” he was asked at his only televised full-length news conference, in 1965. “I welcome them — with open arms,” he replied, in much the same unwelcoming spirit on display in “Don't Look Back,” the 1967 documentary he subsequently renounced.

Sarcasm is an understandable response, given what he found himself up against. Here's another sampling of the same session: Does he prefer songs with messages, like “Eve of Destruction?” A. “Do I prefer that to what?” Q. “I don't know, but your songs are supposed to have a subtle message.” A. “Subtle message???” Q. “Well, they're supposed to.” A. “Where'd you hear that?” Q. “In a movie magazine.” A. “Oh — Oh God!”

Neither book performs what would have been a vital function: providing annotations that refer back to Mr. Dylan's versions of events in “Chronicles.” (Ray Gooch and Chloe Kiehl, the New York couple who supposedly made the young Mr. Dylan their houseguest amid a cornucopia of wonders, remain elusive in the extreme.) The facts of Mr. Dylan's life exist in many variations, and “Chronicles” tried to correct the record. If he had to be pigeonholed as the voice of a generation, surely he is entitled to the last word.


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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 22, 2006 2:00 PM.

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