Bob Dylan has had a special place in my heart for nigh over a decade now. My first experience with the man himself was in high school, where I bought a double-live album on a whim. I’d recognized the name and had a vague idea of who he was, but that was it. This album stirred something inside my high school soul, and anon I was captivated by folk music. Through college my love for the genre grew fonder, as did my appreciation for the legendary Dylan. I up and listened to his entire catalog. The guy could write.
Sometime ago I bought a trade paperback of the first volume of Dylan’s memoirs titled Chronicles Volume One. The book was an immediate bestseller and had a lot of fanfare about it. But I’m not much on biographies* so the book rested on the TBR. Until now.
I described Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Vol. One to Keisha like the ramblings of an old man just sharing some memories. In essence that’s exactly what it is. But to the fan, this is a book straight from the man himself**. Music is in my blood and marrow, and the idea of getting some insight into Dylan’s psyche sounded fascinating.
Reading prose by Bob Dylan is as evocative as his lyrics. His use of metaphor is unique, painting pictures with perfect comparisons. The way he describes people is sometimes funny but always revelatory. These passages are like little trips into Dylan’s mind. I loved his reactions to Woodie Guthrie’s music and Robert Johnson’s records.
One odd thing about Chronicles Vol. One is that its focus is on odd points in Dylan’s life. The book spends a bit of its time detailing two of Dylan’s lesser celebrated albums (Oh Mercy and New Morning) and how Dylan came to creating them while practically omitting any other albums. There’s also a generous section on Dylan’s rambling about New York and New Orleans but very little on his formative years.
I did enjoy Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Volume One, but there seemed to be things missing. I would have preferred more time devoted to his first few albums as opposed to ones so late into his career. I would have preferred more anecdotes and reactions to his rise of popularity. I would have preferred many other things, but that’s not what Dylan wanted to share. This Reader infers that these shared memories in Chronicles Volume One are very special to the man, perhaps more so than others. There are supposedly three volumes to this memoir set, but this is the only one out right now. All in all, if you’re a Bob Dylan fan and are curious to learn some more off-the-familiar path information about him, Chronicles Volume One is definitely for you. Just be aware that the scope is very limited with this book and you may wish to get a more thorough biography if you’re after anything else.
*Unless they’re fictitious in nature, or about a larger-than-life subject (of which Dylan possibly could be).
** Apparently there is a bit of controversy over how much of this book stems from Dylan’s own vocabulary. There’s folks aplenty crying that Dylan plagiarized, or at least didn’t give proper credit. From what I can tell, this has some truth to it, but I didn’t really care one way or the other.