Bob Dylan Chronicles
Bob Dylan. Simon & Schuster, $24 (293pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-2815-2
After a career of principled coyness, Dylan takes pains to outline the growth of his artistic conscience in this superb memoir. Writing in a language of cosmic hokum and street-smart phrasing, he lingers not on moments of success and celebrity, but on the crises of his intellectual development. He reconstructs, for example, an early moment in New York when he realized ""that I would have to start believing in possibilities that I wouldn't have allowed before, that I had been closing my creativity down to a very narrow, controllable scale...that things had become too familiar and I might have to disorient myself."" And he recounts how, in that search for larger reach, he actually went to the public library's microfilm archives to learn the rhetoric of Civil War newspapers. Skipping the years of his greatest records, or perhaps saving those years for the second volume of his chronicle, Dylan recalls the times when he was sick of his public persona and made more lackluster albums like ""Self-Portrait"" and ""New Morning."" He then skips again to his comeback work with producer Daniel Lanois in the late 1980s. Dylan emphasizes that he was ""indifferent to wealth and love,"" and readers looking for private revelations will be disappointed. But others will prize the display of musical integrity and seriousness that is evident in his minutia-filled accounts of his influences in folk and blues. Ultimately, this book will stand as a record of a young man's self-education, as contagious in its frank excitement as the letters of John Keats and as sincere in its ramble as Jack Kerouac's On the Road, to which Dylan frequently refers. A person of Dylan's stature could have gotten away with far less; that he has been so thoughtful in the creation of this book is a measure of his talents, and a gift to his fans.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2004
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