Chronicles: Volume One

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
by Bob Dylan #18

Bob Dylan is a really good writer. No, wait! don't roll your eyes. Being a phenomenal songwriter does not necessarily guarantee that one will be an tremendous prose writer, but Dylan is. This book was so good it surprised me.

Chronicles not a tell-all memoir where Dylan dishes the dirt on famous girlfriends or infamous moments. It is so much better! He tries to get to the heart of the mysterious force that constantly drives him forward. "I'd come from a long ways off and had started from a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking right at me and nobody else."

Chronologically it jumps around to four or so specific periods in his life. He doesn't attempt to tell everything that happens, but he goes into exceptional physical and emotional detail in what he does choose to tell. It's sort of like he was taking mineral core samples -- narrow but deep examinations that reveal much.

Without bogging down in endless exposition he paints vivid pictures of the places and people he encountered along his way. No detail is too small -- snow on the windowsill, the distant sound of a train, the cut of a coat, the texture of furniture (turns out he has a real flair for furniture). But best of all are his depictions of people. Here's a bit about half of a couple he stayed with for a time: "Chloe had her own primitive way of looking at things, always would say mad stuff that clicked in a cryptic way, told me once that I should wear eyeshadow because it keeps away the evil eye. I asked her whose evil eye and she said, "Joe Blow's or Joe Schmoe's." According to her, Dracula ruled the world and he's the son of Gutenberg, the guy who invented the printing press." You never know who or what will get that extra bit of attention (J.P. Morgan, Ricky Nelson, Albertus Magnus, etc.), which adds to the fun.

Despite the fact that it is Bob Dylan writing about his life, it's not just a book about Bob Dylan. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're not the biggest Dylan fan in the world, fear not. Neither is he! He writes about himself, but about the things that set his mind on fire and about how he answered the relentless call that pushed him forward. It's a generous look into the life and mind of a unique creative talent and not some monument to the Myth of Dylan.
2 comments on "Chronicles: Volume One"
  1. I will definitely check that out. (In fact I did and then didn't get to it before the library wanted it back. Picture me shamefaced.) Like your image of the core sample.

  2. I think you'd really like it, Patty! And I imagine that the library has 20000 copies... it's been a while now since it came out, so I bet you could even renew a bunch of times if you had to. You need to read it!


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