Chronicles: Volume One

ByBob Dylan

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
wendy roberts
I write this as a very minor Bob Dylan fan. I own some of his music, mostly greatest hits stuff and am only familiar with his work in a cursory manner. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I listen now to his songs with greater interest, trying to pick out the things he's saying. I never really got the appeal before, and to be honest, still don't get it that much. But I understand this man was a icon on modern culture. His music made a huge impact. And even though he denies it throughout the book, he has a historical importance.

What this book did for me was let me peer into the reality of his life. It was interesting to see how some young kid from Minnesota without much education but full of ambition and a desire to learn and explain himself, found different types of music to lead him on his journey. It's interesting to read who influenced him and the way he speaks of them.

Take a look at this book if you get some time. It's a good read for the road or for a lazy vacation. It's part philosophy, part history, part musical exploration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jason klein
Just the way he writes his songs is the way he writes this book, wordy... his experiences, his observations, interesting to see who he admired and influenced him in his journey,(Frank Sinatras, Ebbtide) hes a good solid family man cant seem to understand himself all the fuss over him. doesnt quite get it after all these years , but he does... a contradiction, but maybe not.. i dont think youll get any closer to knowing who he is certainly no insight to how he came up with any lyrics, except for him to say he just wrote them..
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sally franson
I really don't get it. Everyone trying to figure out "the truth" about Bob Dylan: some have stated their points of view ever so eloquently. But, Dylan said it himself long ago in the song, "Gates of Eden" - when he wrote that there is no truth outside the gates of Eden. My point being this: I just want to thank Bobby Dylan for providing some of the most sublime moments of joy in music, literature, hilarious satire, and the all-inspiring unconventional. I don't care who he is. I don't care what he said in one interview or on one particular day. God knows if someone were taking notes of what I've said that way - I'd come off completely nuts! Why can't we just all relax, sit back and enjoy what is arguably the most rare and spectacular historical "come back" so to speak in musical history?
Unsinkable: A Memoir :: The Princess Diarist :: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) :: Wishful Drinking :: Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set (Mistborn - & The Well of Ascension)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"If my thought-dreams
Could be seen
They'd probably
Put my head in a guillotine"

- "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"

Sooooooooo good. There can't be too many books that allow such access into a genius's mind. Especially such a private one like Bob!

You know how you thought this guy Dylan must think different than other people? Well, Chronicles Vol. 1 proves it. Here you get a firsthand view into the disjointed and original "beginner's mind" of the best song-writer since David the Psalmster.

Some Highlights:

We get to see just how much reverence Dylan had for his folk heroes. And he describes the reasons for his adulation better than anyone else can talk about folk music. You get to see how what rap was/is to so many black youth, that's what folk was to Dylan. He exposes himself as an encyclopedic fan, but more than that his passion is transmitted.

It is hilarious and amazing when Dylan goes into much detail about how when he was first playing with the Grateful Dead, he became hugely embarrassed because he didn't know how to play his own songs. He took his wife and jumped on his motorcycle and took off to Baton Rouge IIRC (if I remember correctly). And then in the midst of all that frustration, he came up with an entirely new way to play those same old songs. (This is kind of apparent if you listen to or watch Dylan performances in the 70's.)

He basically made up new chords, a simplified TEMPLATE, which he could pull all his songs through in order to play them live, with other people -- if I understood him correctly.

And it's in sections like that where you get to see a lot of Dylan's thought-streams (thought dreams seen?). That is really the gift of the book. Utterly fascinating!

Bum around with the young kid in Greenwich Village in the early 60's. He tells you what books he was pulling off the bookshelves of people whose apartments he was crashing at. He gives great personality profiles of those people... Dylan knows what you want to hear, and how you want to hear it. He doesn't follow traditional book-writing protocol, or grammar. He writes like he talks, and like he thinks, I would guess. Really, he writes like he PERCEIVES. So you're actually getting access to HIS PERCEPTIONS. That is very personal and not something you'll find in such raw honesty most anywhere.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Known for his incredibly cryptic song lyrics, interviews and public persona, I really didn't know what to expect from Dylan's "Chronicles, Volume One." While I'm sure readers expecting a blow-by-blow account of his life will be disappointed--due to the disjointed nature of the narrative--this autobiography exceeds expectations by giving a psychic account of the influences that lead him to write all those great songs in the 1960s. More or less self-taught, his own personal college were friends bookshelves, and he absorbed an awful lot in his late teens and early twenties, including old Civil War-eraa newspapers, 19th century political pamphlets, T.S. Eliot, the Beats, Thucydides, Macchiavelli, Jean Genet and many others. Also, his taste in music is catholic: who would have figured he was a fan of Judy Garland or Bobby Vee? Who knew that he once played with the jazz/avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor?

"Volume One" focuses on his early days in New York before signing to Columbia Records, the recording of the album "New Morning," and the recording of the album "Oh Mercy." While it is initially disappointing to miss out on his descriptions of his mid-1960s whirlwind tours, meeting his first wife, his drug use, his motorcycle accident, recording "Highway 61," etc., it is easy to tell that these tales are going to be in another volume as enticement for gullible Dylan-fans to buy succeeding volumes. Commentary aside, these chapters focusing on his post-60s glory are particularly revealing. They chart a man who has grown weary of fame and who is simply playing music to pay the bills. By the time he was beginning to work on 1989's "Oh Mercy" album, he was considering retiring from music because he had no more desire to write and had long been coasting by on his legendary status to secure live gigs and albums. Around this time, he decides to recommit himself to music, lyricwriting and singing.

As for his writing style: this autobiography hardly resembles his song lyrics or his 1971 novel "Tarantula." His style is clumsy, but very conversational. About twice a page, he will stun the reader with a wonderful description; whether it be of the weather outside or the character of a friends' voice. The text is easy to read, but many might complain about lack of specifics from time to time. He can remember topical historical events from the 1960s but never reveals much about his family ... and we don't even learn his second wife's name (this might have been contractual, but nonetheless it should be pointed out). But, warts and all, this is mandatory reading for the "nothing is revealed" set.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nancy l
Dylan exhibits a similar writing style to Woody Guthrie - folksy, flowing, easy-to-read. In fact, "Chronicles" may very well be Dylan's "Bound for Glory." Bouncing between his historical recollections of Minnesota, New York, and all points thereafter to his inner thoughts on musical structures and language, I became enthralled with the complexity of this human being. At one point, I had put down the book and pick up my guitar to try to better understand the odd numerical system of phrasing that Dylan had learned from Lonnie Johnson in the early 60's and that he revisited when regaining the use of an injured hand.

The book provides a nice chronology of events surrounding the folk revival that was in full bloom in Greenwich Village at the time of Dylan's arrival. His recollections of the Village and its denizens read like a "who's who" and "what's where" of that time. In his writing, he paints memorable and nostalgic landscapes of New York city winters while providing both intimate portraits and imagery "snap shots" of the people - famous or not - in his life at that time. Throughout the course of the book, the very human side of Bob Dylan emerges. Without betraying his privacy, he manages to enlighten the reader about the forces that shaped his life and music and the people who where with him during that evolution.

"Chronicles Volume One", fills in a lot of the gaps in the first part of the "No Destination Home" documentary. The book leaves us at the point of Dylan's breakthrough to into the "big time" through his new relationships with John Hammond and Al Grossman. I hope there will be a "Volume Two."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I had trouble putting this book down. I'm 56 and this book brought back the late 50's and early 60's for me. Bob entered the folk music scene in Greenwich Village at its peak, and this book gives personal recollections of that time that is now long gone. There are all kinds of interesting details; who Bob lived with, what his reltionship was like with Dave Von Ronk and many other interesting people from that time, and what performers did (play cards or hang out in a bar or diner) between sets at Gerdes Folk City. About a quarter of the book has to do with the making of Oh Mercy with a lot of interesting details, e.g. Bob still likes listening to the radio.

All in all, this is the book Dylan fans have wanted for a long time. Bob seems to have written it just like he remembers it. The only weakness is that it is not more comprehensive. The times he does right about, though, are like sitting around having a beer with Bob and Bob telling you the stories of his life. For a Dylan fan like me, it is remarkable, like fog burning off and you are able to see things clearly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gabrielle nowicki
Bob Dylan takes his prodigious talents for language and turns out one of the most remarkably honest rambles of raggle-taggle prose since Jack Kerouac. From the first few pages, describing an ambitious but reserved young man whose future role had not yet been defined, I was willing led down memory alley. The artistic subworlds of New York, with its hanger-onners and would-bes. invoke countless anecdotes about the creative lives of others. Remarkably sketched, and poignantly personal, I never felt the usual strain that often comes with more self-important memoirs. Dylan's voice remains remarkably rough and earnest, glissing between gorgeous metaphors and cowboy expletives . . . but always uniquely his own. His own assessment of his artistry, usually inferred than described in achingly obvious detail, lure the reader into a smoky area in between the lines. Simply one of the best autobiographies I've ever read . . . by no means intended only Dylan mavens, this work will readily appeal to anyone who knows that the music industry involves a lot more than what 'American Idol' has led us to believe. Here's a real damn American Idol, from what I think at least. This book packed more punches than five years worth of New Yorker short stories.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As I read Chronicles I was impressed by how Dylan articulates his opposition to being a spokesman for a generation. It must have come as a shock to fans who feel it necessary to peel into the inner workings of artists they have come to respect. I think this book should stand as a lesson learned to all who dig deeper for some greater meaning and messages to ease a cluttered life or look to solve mysteries. As a fan I have been one to listen intently to albums and then venture further to bootlegs and of course attend concerts. In doing so there is an undeniable bond and closeness that occurs between fans. Some go further to include the artist in this bond but as I read this book it certainly is not the case. The facts are clear: the artist is off limits to you as a fan and this so called bond is a figment of ones imagination. Bob is a talented writer and musician and has entertained his fans for five decades and even when the material wasn't wonderful it was still just entertainment. I fear some fans have attached a far greater importance to him and that is a mistake according to this book. Take the music and enjoy the ones that speak to you and put a smile on your face or a question to ponder in your mind. That is the real message of Bob Dylan. Going deeper and wanting to secure his philosophies on religion or politics and in the meantime propping him up as an authority figure is a mistake. At the end of the day, he's a guy with a guitar that made it really big and we enjoy his talent. No need to delve any further.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jane caldwell
That one of America's most elusive icons has penned one of its most revealing self-portraits is surprising enough. That the book teems with the ferocity, distinctiveness and wisdom of an American literary classic is beyond the expectations of even some of his most devoted students. That word "student" becomes especially appropriate as the first volume of Dylan's memoirs unfolds with a litany of literary allusions, historical references and insight, and an amount of experience reserved for ten lifetimes. While some of that may not necessarily be unexpected, the vividness of Dylan's many character studies, the precision and clarity of his illuminating bursts of historical reflections, and the breadth of his rich reading experience, make for a life whose unique fullness is only partially revealed in the man's music. As with any autobiography, Dylan conveniently selects the fragments of his life he is willing to discuss. His tumultuous early relationships with Suze Rotolo and Joan Baez, for example, are quickly shrugged off, while even less is said of Dylan's most lauded works, from all those classic early songs to Blood on the Tracks and beyond. Similarly, the book itself is arranged into a series of prolonged recollections that jump over whole decades and retreat back again, avoiding the kind of linear narrative one might expect of a memoir. But from a man who infuriates as easily as he satisfies, such idiosyncrasy is hardly surprising. It is in the few windows of his life through which Dylan chooses to gaze that the book's intensity explodes. From an extended examination of the sessions that led to 1989's Oh Mercy to a vulnerable look at the disillusionment that nearly derailed his creative and personal life, Dylan's candor leaves little to the imagination. Most appealing of all is his ability to maintain throughout the book a sense of something larger than himself, a modesty that makes for a particularly refreshing and fascinating read. Some of the best parts of the book have nothing to do with the man himself, and read like stretches of lost prose from some of the many literary masters to which he so frequently alludes. At turns a great American road novel, landmark historical document and professorial lecture, Chronicles, Vol. 1 is as colorful an addition to American letters as Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory or Kerouac's On the Road.

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★
constance merritt
The man with the hurricane hair shows himself as the most human of all rock and rollers. Family, privacy, art for art's sake, and other concerns take center stage and Dylan does not hold back on answering age old questions, including those that deal with "how do you write a song". It also demonstrates that Dylan has a huge heart. Anyone from Dylan's world who can refer to Bobby Vee as a "brother" has an infinite depth of humanity and compassion. The book is written in Dylan's own cryptic style and those who are unfamiliar or uneasy with the prose of a poet will be somewhat confused. Indeed, there is something going on here and some will not know what it is, but Dylan holds nothing back in attempting to relate what it was like to be held up as a God by an entire generation when, in fact, all he cared about was his family and protecting them. Additionally, Dylan reveals his early influences and how he approaches a subject of a song. It really is an amazing book. Anyone who has followed Dylan's career and life will be hard pressed to critize the artist for being too guarded or for not expressing himself adequately. In fact, if the book has any faults it is that Dylan goes into too much detail when it comes to guitar stylizing or the framework of a song. All and all, this is a supreme effort and will rank with Dylan's greatest works as it puts to rest the label of "recluse". Dylan shares himself beyond anything that was expected. Can't wait for Volumes 2 and 3.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
While I am a fan of Bob Dylan's work, I held no expectations for this book. Yet, his words had me hooked from the first three pages. The pure intimacy with which he writes nearly breaks your heart. If you are a fan, and even if you are one of those amazing people who can quote you which song he performed where and when, you will learn something from this book. If you aren't and wish to know about the roots of Western music as it exists today, you will also learn something from this book. Not only does he describe his moods and the circumstances which contributed to them, but he actually takes the time to discuss his music composition. I found myself cheering when he shares his side of the many mindnumbing interviews he had to endure throughout his career. Of course, we know this man can write. And his comic timing is priceless. A word which kept popping up was "mysterious." Isn't it nice to know that Bob Dylan continues to be intrigued by mysterious things? The real mystery to me, especially after reading this generously insightful book, is why society claims to celebrate artists while imposing chains on them. Although I feel I know a bit more about what Bob Dylan thinks on certain topics, it will be a joy to see what he creates in his next oeuvre!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lars gaustad
If Dylan's music speaks to you, so will this book. It's a magical mystery tour of Dylan's mind, just like his songs.

Anyone who doesn't get this book probably couldn't get his songs either.

Reading Chronicles is the equivalent of talking to an old friend and reminiscing. You are getting what the friend remembers, how he remembers it now, and what he want's to talk about. Is he going to spill the beans on his sins? Unlikely. Was Bob a sinner? Most likely. But who wasn't? This isn't the gospel, or the light any more than his songs were. But that's his point. He was a businessman/poet/musician who wanted to make a living with his music and not lose his private life in the bargain. He most likely still is, but this time his song is this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Just think if Picasso could have written a really good book about himself, or Tolstoy, or Martin Luther King, or Joni Mitchell--what a great thing it would be to get an inner glimpse into these people, coming not from some biographer but direct. That's what Bob Dylan has done, and I found it absolutely fascinating. First of all, he's an inspired wordsmith, and that extends to his prose as well. Certain passages or turns of phrase would stick in my mind because, because, well, there's something about them, something special. And it's because this guy's a genius and he understands something of the mystery of words. It's so interesting seeing his fateful years in the Village from his point of view . . . This book jumpstarted my own creative juices, because this guy is just so creative, that just to follow his thought processes starts making your brain synapses start to crackle and pop . . . Other reviewers have explored many other angles, don't want to go too deeply into it here except to say I read it twice--was compelled to read it twice--because I just couldn't stop thinking about certain things he said, and I wanted to go back and see why the writing affected me so much. The magic is both in the lines and between the lines, and I just wanted more and more. Can't wait for vol. 2.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Even if you are not a fan of his music, you likely know Bob Dylan as a cultural icon, and a major figure in folk, rock and popular music. With an early career inextricably linked to the 1960s, you probably also view him as another potsmoking hippie liberal poet. Whether those impressions are good things or bad things to you, my advice is the same:

Read this book.

From his early days in Minnesota to his great respect for the traditions and pioneers of American folk music to his personal struggles with family, faith and fame, Bob Dylan's memoir is accessible, entertaining and enjoyable. His unconventional, conversational storytelling is not always chronological, but is nevertheless easy to follow and fun to read.

I don't think it is at all accurate to say that this book chronicles the times in which Bob Dylan lived and worked. Rather, it is a timeless account of how a pretty simple, introspective man lives in any time.

It is an easy, and fun, read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
wendy falzone
At first glance, this autobiography is almost opaque; much of it is devoted to what appear to be meaningless anecdotes from Dylan's everyday life, and a reader could be forgiven for getting frustrated and shouting, "Tell me about how you wrote 'Like a Rolling Stone,' already!" But Dylan's writing, like his songcraft, soon wins you over. His streams of consciousness may feel aimless, but Dylan always returns to the matter at hand, no matter how long a tangent he takes getting from A to B or how colorful the characters he shows us in between.

Indeed, there's more transparency in this work than we had any right to expect from the usually cryptic Dylan, information about his priorities (his family and his privacy) and albums he released in an effort to reduce his popularity (Self Portrait, among others) or without any passion for his work (much of the 1980s). We learn who he admired before he was a star, how he landed his first real gigs and recorded his first album. We see, albeit it through mirrors aimed at other mirrors, a vivid reflection of Dylan as we've never seen him before.

This is Dylan's self-portrait of his artistic development--why he started playing music, why he chose the directions he did, what pitfalls he encountered along the way, how he dealt with them and got his groove back. No, it doesn't flow linearly from beginning to end, and no, it isn't the whole story--that's what Volumes Two and Three are for. But by itself, Chronicles: Volume One is a fascinating and revealing look at the man who never wanted to be the voice of his generation and ended up being a voice for every generation. Remarkable and highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Heard the taped version of CHRONICLES, VOLUME ONE by

Bob Dylan . . . it traces the singer's beginnings from when he

first arrived in Manhattan in 1961 . . . I enjoyed his take on

many recording artists, including the great Roy Orbison (he

admired), Ricky Nelson (he didn't think would last), Dan Van

Ronk, etc.

This isn't a typical autobiography, in that it doesn't follow

a straight chronological approach . . . rather, it is a collection

of Dylan's observations on a wide range of topics including

the music business, his loves and how he came up with

ideas for his songs.

It left me looking forward to CHRONICLES, VOLUME 2--particularly

if Sean Penn repeats the excellent job of narration he did on

this first part.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The first thing you should bring to reading this book, Bob Dylan's "memoirs", is the knowledge that you're not getting a straightforward "life story" from the most mysterious and celebrated figure in modern American music. That's just not going to happen, and thank God for that.

The second thing that you should bring to this is the willingness to join Dylan on his rambling, rollicking treks through his own past to form what can best be described as snapshots from the life he lived and the moments that (to him at least) seem worthy of examination. The most striking thing about "Chronicles: Volume One" is how the tone is set in the first section. Dylan seems to get around the typical "and then I did this" style of self-important autobiographies and instead talk about his life naturally, as if in conversation with the reader.

Bob Dylan is one of those figures that has been able to maintain a distinctly hidden persona from the world at large. What's so interesting in the book is not the illumination cast upon his life, but (due to the choices he makes in what he highlights) the darkness that still surrounds it even after you get to "know" the man. His own words do not betray his life, they merely serve to show what he wants you to see. He holds himself back, back far enough to maintain your interest without holding out a carrot of further details that prove disappointing. With Dylan, the merest crumbs of detail are enough.

Dylan starts with his arrival in New York in 1961, fast-forwards to the "isolation" of the late Sixties and early Seventies, then skips ahead to 1987 and his album "Oh Mercy!", and finally takes us back to his signing to Columbia Records and the beginnings of a career that would change America. Throughout it all, Dylan remains sprightly with his prose, able to convey in a few words what other memoirists take chapters to get to. Dylan's aura serves him well here, as he gives you just enough to feel that you have a grasp on him. But not a chokehold. He holds back because others before him probably went too far. And Dylan's a private man.

I picked this up after seeing "No Direction Home" and, while always interesting in Dylan, I was reluctant to pick the book up when it first came out. To me, the mystery of Dylan was more or less a fact of life, impregnable to all attempts to pierce it, and I liked it that way. But the film put me in a mood to see what made the man who he is. I don't think a lot of people will be satisfied with the book (or Volume 2 whenever it is released), but it seperates the people that Dylan wouldn't want reading his life story from those who he would.

"Chronicles: Volume One" is the most revealing, frustrating, heartbreaking work of staggering genius, from a man who rejects all the labels attributed to him even as he uses them to make him even more mysterious. Bob Dylan's life story as told by the man himself is well worth the wait, and the book is a must. Through Dylan's evolution and artistic growth, readers may be more inspired by his story than by any other. That's something to be proud of.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Since misplaced expectations seem to be a problem with some of the reviewers here (hasn't that always been Bob Dylan's fate?) perhaps a more accurate title for this book would be "The Education of Bob Dylan". It describes how Dylan formed his artistic sensibility and found his unique creative voice, and then nearly lost it. It is a remarkable book; yes, I think it is an American classic. Some reviewers here complain that the book is random and without structure. Not so--it starts with the acquiring of inspiration, how the excesses of fame nearly destroy it, then the harrowing process of rebuilding the creative process in the late 1980s. At the end of the book it has returned to Dylan's roots, geographically to the Minnesota of his childhood and youth, and musically to the blues, R&B, country and early Rock and Roll. Throughout, the book is unmistakably Dylan: lyrical, evocative, visually acute, poetic, idiosyncratic, humorous and yes, sometimes contradictory, clumsy and ungrammatical. Why would anyone expect otherwise? Why would anyone want it otherwise?
As a historian I especially treasure Dylan's heartfelt love of and vast knowledge of American music. I think one of Dylan's great contributions in his career is his connecting popular music to this incredible cultural legacy (see Greil Marcus's "Invisible Republic"). Some of the reviews complain about his 'name dropping", but I loved hearing about all the musical greats who influenced him (not to mention the stuff he was reading. We knew about Rimbaud, etc., but microfiche of Civil War era newspapers?!). Far from arrogant, his discussions of his fellow musicians are filled with affection, awe and gratitude. Many of the people he mentions are nearly unknown now, or have always been obscure; good for Dylan for bringing them to our attention. There is a very eloquent review on this page (currently about #100). The young man who wrote the review was born after Dylan's early period of great fame. He barely knew who Dylan was; he had never heard of Jack Kerouac. Now he is searching out all these names that Dylan mentions, reading these authors, listening to the music Dylan listens to. This new fan asks "who has bothered to focus on what it means to be an American?" Bob Dylan has; he's one of our great ones.
I can understand that people who don't know or appreciate Dylan's music might not like this book, or might be puzzled by it. What mystifies me are the purported fans who panned the book. For one, some people seem not to have seen the "Vol. One" part of the title. And what true Dylan would want or expect a traditional, linear, heavily edited, blow by blow biography? What have they been listening to all these years? Have they ever read Kerouac, Ginsberg, or even Walt Whitman? Some seem to want Dylan to explain his great songs to them. They remind me of those clueless reporters that Dylan spars with in his famous mid-sixties interviews. Shouldn't a Dylan fan know that Dylan is not going to explain his songs for you? The songs are what we make of them. The handful of reviewers who dismiss the book as quickie "make a buck" job are only revealing their own cynicism. That book would be the one where he tells how it felt to get stoned with the Beatles, why he was so mean to Joan Baez in the '65 UK tour, just what drugs was he doing in the electric '66 tour, how many groupies he screwed, etc. That's the book that a lot of people wanted, and then these same reviewers could bash Dylan for writing the typical, sensationalistic, sex,drugs and rock & roll biography. Do they think Dylan wins easy brownie points with his fans with his sympathetic portrayal of Frank Sinatra Jr, or revealing his liking for Barry Goldwater? Really, can anyone wonder why Dylan has such an ambiguous relationship with his fans?
Instead of the usual Rock&Roll biography, Bob Dylan has given us a window into the mind and creative process of a great artist, and provided us with a wonderful evocation of mid-twentieth century America on the cusp of a huge cultural transition. That Dylan is still conflicted over his own role in that transition is part of his fascination. Why anyone who loves his music could find this unsatisfactory is beyond me. I think he has given us a real gift with this book. I can't wait for Volume II. Thanks Bob.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
brendan keegan
Chronicles is a no brag book. I most enjoyed Dylan's comments about artists he most admires; ex, the Sun Studios players. Why Robert Johnson was a major influence.

There's no pattern to be found. A lot of it sounds like it was spoken in a flood of words into a mic. A bit amateurish with over the top adulation: "[Joan Baez] Cleopatra living in an Italian Palace."

There's lots to like. Dylan's evocation of the city of New Orleans shows great enthusiasm. Some is draggy and pointless, ex a tedious explanation about the making of "Time Out of Mind."

The bottom line is that hard core students of music of the late 50's will enjoy it much more than readers who know little or nothing about singers like Jack Elliott or Dave Van Ronk.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
There's no telling how much editing this book underwent before publication, but Dylan's memories of New York and Minnesota before he hit it big are astonishingly detailed and well written. He doesn't come off nearly as arrogant as he appears in various '60s clips. Then again, no apologies. Not that he admits any wrongdoing.

The most striking part of the book is probably the middle section about how he tried to destroy his own myth by producing a bunch of crap in the early '70s, but even then "The gourd! Follow the gourd!" types wouldn't leave him alone.

The problem with the book overall is the shoddy editorial arrangement, with some very revealing and intelligent confessions mixed with long and drawn-out uninteresting details about how Daniel Lanois mixed one of his albums in the 1980s.

Dylan comes off as much more eloquent and direct than you'd expect, but reveals absolutely no emotional attachment to any person outside of musicians, dead or alive. Wives, kids, ex-girlfriends, etc. are barely mentioned, if at all -- and if so, only vaguely and usually without even receiving a name. There's no dedication in the frontispiece. A biographer looking at this book would not find much info here about Dylan's family or personal life -- but they will get a lot about Lanois' approach to chord arrangement and studio mixing, which I and probably everyone else passed over.

I did like the fact that Dylan takes on a lot of the vapid reviews and criticisms over the years. As a book, it jumps around randomly, but still better than "Tarantula."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stephen boynton
and was also an education. Dylan shares important portions of his life and tells the tale in his own unique style. Each sentence is so poetic. He came across to me, as a sensitive human, aware of everything he saw, heard, touched-and said how all these things formed his creativity. I felt this was a beautiful story. I appreciated how he did not tell his life in the usual A B C way, he went in swoops and circled back to the start. Unlike some other reviewers here, I adored the section about New Orleans and his work with Daniel Lanois. He showed his humanity, Dylan bravely showed his fears and his desires.

I want to not only delve further in to his music ( having loved much of his music for years) but experience the people who influenced him. Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie, even Joan Baez' early work...

An amazing and beautiful book, soulful and enriching. Read it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
debbie ross
This is a fascinating peek into the mind of Dylan.
He's definitely still winking at us and sharing sparingly so if you're wanting a true autobiography,
this isn't it. If you're content to read stories of his musical evolution, then there is lots of interest.
As is his wont, Dylan breaks all the rules and just gives us what suits his fancy.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
amber martens
I grew up in the generation that first fell in love with Bob Dylan. I had his Positively 4th Street album, although I could scarecely affod it and I actually lived on 4th Street, not long after he was there. And like many others, I lost interest in him as the years went by.

I was interested, enough, though, to pick up the audio version of this book at the local library. It is abridged so take this review with that in mind. It's narrated by Sean Penn, who has a great voice for the job; I felt like I was listening to Dylan, himself, or maybe a more likable, less whiney version of Dylan.

I found the opening part, the first disk, captivating. It's the part that describes his most magical years, probably---when he first hit New York and discovered the wonders of the city and transformed that into his first wonderful songs. There was a lot of wisdom, too, and I found myself running to find a pen and paper to write down some of the things he said. (Another reviewer here accused him of I guess I should with hold my enthusiasm a bit.)

I confess that some of the CD's I heard were damaged so I missed a few segments of the first disks. What I did hear, though, on the middle through the end, was disappointing. As others have said, there is no attempt at a linear time line, which is ok in some instances, but it doesn't work here. He goes from being a teenager in love with some girl who's 17 to being married with five children, without giving us any transition. He mentions his first transcendent crush on Joan Baez from seeing her face on an album and hearing her voice, but never goes into the actual relationship. He tells us how he went to some length to erase his actual background but later describes his parents and home town with affection and pride. He goes on to describe, with pride, the Land of the Giants, and how he felt he was one with the many great ones who came from the Land of the North...Lindberg, Scott-Fitzgerald, etc.

OK, I can accept that but what I did have a hard time appreciating was his consistent, long, loud complaints about the fruits of his success. He made snide remarks about the introduction he was given when he was awarded an honorary PhD at Princeton. He blamed the media and all the horrible people who loved him for calling him a spokesperson for his generation. But he didn't have to accept the degree and he certainly never turned down the money his fame brought him. He focused strongly on becoming a succesful singer/songwriter and then failed to accept responsibility for having accomplished what he wanted. Or to show gratitude.

Recently I listened to some of the songs that I once fell in love with and realized how hateful they were---"Don't think twice, that's allright," "How does it feel to be all alone, like a rolling stone..." etc. He caught part of the spirit of a generation, all right...the part that hated their parents, that rebelled against the crimes of the previous generations, but without the sweetness of the good part of that age. I lived on East 4th Street, another middle class kid from the Midwest, living in a tenemant to escape the confinements of my parents, but I saw more than rebellion. There was a lot of love. There were people handing out flowers in the street, telling others how beautiful they were, there were families living in the deepest slums with their doors unlocked, inviting passersby to come in and make themselves at home...and a lot more. The Beatles captured the positive energy of that day...."All you need in love,"

Dylan, like Salinger, captured the voice of the angry adolescent and, like Salinger, brilliantly made it into art. But he wasn't able to move on. He is certainly a smart guy and very talented. His prose flows like a mountain stream, rich, filled with clear, often fascinating descriptions of people and places. But this book is as filled with disappointment as his career has been. One hopes that, in his later years, he will come full circle, like another great artist of that time, Leonard Cohen, did, (which Salinger never did),to a fuller, more benign acceptance of himself and the world around him. If that happens and he writes Volume II of his Chronicles, I'll buy it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lori goldman
This book should have been called "Ramblings" instead of "Chronicles". There is no chronology. Fragments abound so much that it is now hard for me to write without the urge to use them myself. If you asked me what the point was, I wouldn't be able to say. If you were thinking you could write a report on the life of the author you'd be disappointed. I wouldn't even classify it as a biography. It is more like a long conversation over coffee - the kind a younger person stumbles into with a wise elder where the youth wouldn't get a word in edgewise. He wouldn't need to. You can hear the voice of Bob Dylan speaking through this style of writing as if he were sitting right there, rambling on from one subject to another right across the table from you.

And he pulls it off because he is a poet. His fragmented-style of speech on a range of subjects from his own youth, to the music scene when he was getting started, to observations on historical and then-current events, to his discussions of other musicians and so forth - it all has a prosaic resonance that carries the reader through the book without effort. At the same time he comes across fully human rather than as a larger than life megastar. A lull occurs in the book where he dawdles too much on one of his recording sessions, but in emerging from the details of the experience, you have the realization that this is not an untouchable musical genius with mysterious powers, producing his work by way of some divine revelatory exchange with the heavens, but an artist who struggles with his craft and never quite settles on satisfaction with the result.

The artistic personality finds acceptance here. Perhaps that is why I loved reading this book so much. I felt like if Bob Dylan were actually here, the generation gap would not hinder the exchange. I grew up in the 80s. The first time I saw Bob Dylan was on the "We Are the World" video. My friends and I thought it was a riot to imitate his nasal off-key verses. We didn't know about Bob Dylan. We wondered who let him in the studio with all those "stars". Years later I was working in a CD store (record stores were being phased out) when Dylan's 3-CD box set of bootleg recordings came out. By then I knew Dylan was important because he wrote "All Along the Watchtower", which was one of my favorite Hendrix songs. I got the bootleg discs and couldn't stop playing them. I didn't bother with anything else. The bootlegs were perfect to me. Like Robert Johnson, unfinished, unproduced, a man with his guitar and harmonica singing poetry, singing stories - real music.

But I did not really know Bob Dylan. I wasn't alive when he started out nor did I witness what he went through as a pop icon expected to lead a revolution. But this book introduced to me his world: folk music and whoever the Beat poets were. Whatever it is I know I like it. I feel like I am on the verge of some great cultural discovery - an aspect of authentic America that is lost on my generation, much like jazz or the blues. So what is folk music anyway? I thought it was Tracy Chapman in the 80s. Then I learned about Bob Dylan in 1991. A movie came out a few years back featuring "Man of Constant Sorrow". The soundtrack was great - from prison songs to Alison Krauss. Folk music makes me think of a strange cross between hillbilly heathenism and southern Christian fundamentalism. Being turned off by both, I still like it.

So now I've got some homework. After a few days of listening to modern folk music sage I realized I need to know all about Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac (a writer who I had never heard of before, but is of some apparently great influence on the "Beats" as in beatnik [unconventional/nonconformist] or beatific [exalted joy] - incidentally Dylan makes some remark about Americans who don't know him - and I never even heard of him), Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and other pioneers of American music. Dylan dropped names throughout this book, often without referencing any background information. So I wouldn't know if they were musicians, poets, writers, or what kind. ...Just leads in a detective story in pursuit of identity.

So in this book I learned it's all right to be myself. It is OK to be one of those artistic types in an engineer's world of presumed objectivity and always needing to be on time. When I was younger I wanted to lead the next revolution - the one we thought was going to happen in the 90s and make the 60s look like the 50s, (or some nonsense like that). I became a Muslim and thought Islam was the vehicle for change. Instead, I got caught up in a world community with so much inner unrest that making any positive impact on others was going to be a far-flung proposition. It's like expecting broke people to teach the world how to get rich. Meanwhile I was so busy being anti-conformist to my own American culture that I didn't notice how much of a conformist I had become within the Muslim scene. A conformist is a conformist either way - someone who's lost his unique identity and stopped being true to himself just to fit in. It's a false superficial kind of fitting in that one day when called upon to fill your emotional or psychological needs caves in. Once it did for me, I realized my error. Instead of a revolution, what I needed was a relationship with God, and God is not found through conforming to the wishes of others. That is what Islam means: There is no god, except THE God. (I.e. no other needing to be pleased except God).

I am not sure Bob Dylan would agree with me on that. Despite all his common-sense wisdom there is a strange pessimism that chases his observations. He speaks of avoiding any search for truth as if trying to pin that down is too imperialistic, while I have always seen that search as part of my purpose. His last line epitomizes what I mean about him: "...not only was it [the world] not run by God, but it wasn't run by the devil either."

I kept thinking as I read this book - that very few of the people I know, (mostly Muslims), would have any interest in it. I would go further and say that they wouldn't even be able to keep up with it. Though I would say it is important in this question of American Muslim culture, because while most of us are busy grappling with the issue of what it means to be Muslim today, who has bothered to focus on what it means to be an American? Once we get past the "I'm not a terrorist" rhetoric, maybe Dylan could help us answer what else it means. Folk music might be important in this - music being so intrinsic to culture. Obviously commercialism is as American as it comes, but not necessarily an aspect we are proud of or want to keep around. What is America underneath its commercial exterior? Doesn't folk music, including country, blues, rock, jazz, and even rap, (Dylan says he was checking out Ice T, Public Enemy, and NWA), provide pieces to the puzzle? The instruments, their sound, the feelings, and the stories all add up to something inseparably American. Our music is not all just drugs and sex to be shunned due to a sense of obligatory religious puritanism. Rather, the culture of America can be found in its history and its art. We will remain culturally illiterate as long as we shun its art as evil and look at its history as little more than an extension of European imperialism. Certainly, not all art is good and imperialism cannot be denied, but we must not oversimplify America and its people lest we be guilty of the same stereotyping that America perpetrates against Islam and Muslims. The American Muslim must have a well-rounded appreciation for both. Dylan's book is too advanced for Muslims as a starting place, but maybe it is a kind of litmus test - but even then, only for a certain kind of American.

In closing, I felt like I shared the past few days with Bob Dylan. We didn't talk about Islam at all. He told me all about folk music and his own experiences as a musician in a by-gone era. Rent was $60. You could hang out at the right places and run into the right people. You could be honest and still get into the music business with some honest people. He digressed often, which was cool, because he shared his thoughtful insights on history and politics and other matters. [I noted an interesting comment he made about Swaggart's downfall being not out of line with Biblical religious figures who also had slavegirls and/or prostitutes]. He did not talk much about what he thought about things going on right now, though I wished he had. I am not sure why, but it just seems to be worth knowing what Bob Dylan thinks about things. Maybe because in an age of such social disconnection, where families are nuclear and grandparents get shelved away in homes, he is the closest thing we have to a wise elder.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I don't know if Bob wrote or recorded this book for later transcription but it flows like stream of consciousness, with evident efforts to punctuate it along the way with heavy-hitting book titles, authors and names. There are times I sensed an apologetic for influences from other artists musically. Of all the books out there on Dylan, and their are many, this one seems to be a meeting place between answering the accusations in other books and Bob Dylan being himself. Hidden under the words are painful admissions if you can find them of dry spells in his life musically and lack of inspiration, tensioned with producing and performing to please others. It is a human side of Bob Dylan if you can read beneath or behind the words. For all the reviewers who were disappointed, and there were not many, we must remember Dylan is a musician/artist and we need to take from such people what they give us. To expect or ask more would be polluting the stream of inspiration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elizabeth ferry
I absolutely loved this book. In this book, Bob Dylan doesn't necessarily recount about the major events of his life (yes, no marijuana w/ the Beatles stories), instead he writes four layers deep about some major and some trivial moments of his life. The result is that the reader is given a great display of Bob Dylan's own unique personal perspective on his life and life in general. Having been such a hugely popular artist for the last 40 or so years, it really is amazing to read this book and get to know in a seemingly face to face account - who the man really is. I appreciated how he also goes to what I felt were great lengths to give credit to his major influences perhaps to dispel the common notion that Bob Dylan's music was solely a product of Bob being a "genius" and distill the musical art he created to show that it was in actuality a product of (i) an enormous overriding passion for folk music, (ii) a desire to create his own unique musical art like Woodie Guthrie which would turn out to be a somewhat new style of music that had not been done, (iii) an astute appreciation and analysis for contemporary culture via books, movies, music, plays, etc., (iv) god given musical ability, and (v) integrity which made sure that this lad from Hibbings wasn't going to lose his own unique vision. I found myself often in the middle of a page and I would just get struck hard by a statement made in passing such as when Bob said that the experience of trying to draw "purified his eyes" which really gives you a sense of the great artistic sense that he was born with blooming in front of your eyes. This book is terrific.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cristol rippe
Much has been written about this book since it came out. One thing is for sure: a true biography it's not. It's equal parts fiction and myth blended seamlessly with actual events in Dylan's life and career. A lot of what he talks about in the book is embellished, made up, and written for effect. Having said that, it does provide many nuggets of insight viewed from his own perspective. Maybe the most fascinating thing is the way he describes his relationship with his own songs as he recorded them, and over the years. One wonders whether every songwriter has this type of relationship with their songs. He talks about the importance of privacy and family life. Privacy he still maintains to this day. Family life? Considering he's on the "never ending" tour, and spends several hundred days year after year on the road, there can't be much family life left. I've been a Dylan fan for most of my life, but reading this book made me go back and revisit gems like "Oh Mercy" and "Infidels" and appreciate them in a new light. One reviewer here said you get the impression he's just a "regular guy". There's nothing "regular" about this guy. He's nothing short of one of the greatest artists of all time, let alone alive today. We're all fortunate to be alive at the same time as him. Once he's gone, our grandkids will ask "so...did you ever get a chance to see Bob Dylan?"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ira pahila
There is a publishing story surrounding the first part of Bob Dylan's three-part autobiography. The book has been over 3 years in the making and apparently, the first manuscript submitted by Dylan was all of one paragraph, with no punctuation. However, incisive editing and Dylan's wonderful narrative have resulted in a thoroughly witty and anecdotal story. Debunking a few myths, crushing a few egos, paying homage to many heroes and through it all he tells the story of a small town boy who just wanted to rock. Dylan confesses that he never aspired to be a role model or a flag-waving symbol of protest.

The book offers rare insights into the mind of a man who meant so much to so many. "I'd either drive people away,' he writes, 'or they'd come in closer to see what it was all about. There was no in between.' Speaking of some of his most inspired songs, he says " I could'nt understand where they came from." His fans can only wait eagerly for more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynn sommerville
Listen, I am 21 years old. I have read Neil Young's book and Eric Clapton's. Honestly, you just need to appreciate a man who is secretive and not forthcoming throughout this book. Bob Dylan tells his story the best possible way Bob Dylan knows how to. It is very detailed and spontaneous. I had trouble identifying with many of the authors, artists and poets Dylan referenced but still took all of it in the best I could. Dylan is a bonafide legend. Appreciate this book for what it is and apply it to your own life as much as possible. Wow, music is a beautiful thing.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
liz gabbitas
One typically pleasant Southern California evening -- circa 1985 -- a lean, black-jean-and-leather-jacketed, tousel-headed man staggered across a Sunset Strip parking lot and proceeded to tumble face first across the hood of my car. As his grimacing visage came within inches of the windshield, and he pushed himself back to his feet, leaving grimy hand prints on the glass, I was shocked to realize that the man was Bob Dylan. Some 15 years later, my wife and I attended an outdoor concert at the Starwood Amphitheater in Murfreesboro, TN: Paul Simon opened for Dylan. Simon and his all-pro outfit exhibited superior musicianship, strong dynamics, and exceptional song craft. Dylan's rag-tag bunch was sloppy and disorganized. But, what made the Dylan segment intolerable was that the icon himself spent much of his set playing extended, amateurish guitar solos. What a complete waste. We gathered up our blanket and picnic basket and hit the road.

I had seen Dylan in concert twice before. Once in his original, ramblin' man incarnation with Joan Baez: two Martin-wielding folkies, both pure and wonderful. Then, three decades later at the Rose Bowl, Dylan held his own, even in a stadium filled with 90,000 music lovers. I guess the point I'm making is you never know what to expect from Dylan, which is precisely how I felt when I cracked Chronicles: Volume One. I'd have to say that, in this revealing memoir, the author utilizes the mother tongue with consummate skill. He invites us inside the railroad-car apartments, onto the sidewalks of Greenwich Village and the tiny stages of the Manhattan folk clubs of the early '60s. He puts the unforgiving winter wind on our faces and introduces us to the bohemian personalities of the day, from bushy-faced Dave Van Ronk to baby-faced Eric Anderson. He takes us into the recording studio with John Hammond, Jr. and matter-of-factly reveals his sudden, overnight leap to penning some of the most incredible American songs every written.

The first half of this book is wonderful. Then, suddenly, I felt uprooted. My fly on the wall had to suffer through observing a tortured soul in uncomfortable isolation. "Yes" to the people and the places. "Yes" to reliving the times. But, I had a hard time hanging with Dylan in a Long Island kitchen while he wrestled with fatherhood and tried to reconcile the conflict of a Jew finding Jesus.

Rand Bishop, author of Makin' Stuff Up, The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success, and Grand Pop.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
saundra keiffer
I never knew much about Bob Dylan. Oh, I knew his name. As it turns out, I knew some of his songs, I just didn't realize they were his songs. This past Spring someone mentioned his name in passing, later I looked him up on the internet, just on a whim. I WAS HOOKED!!! The more I read of this man the more I wanted to know. Of course, I bought this book and it just fueled the fire. He is a man who, seemingly, uses every talent he possesses... at his own pace, in his own way. So many of we mortals have talent that we waste, Bob Dylan never wasted his talent and we are all blessed to have shared this time with him.

The book is so well written that it makes you feel you know the man, that you sort of got into his mind. Then later you realize he only allowed you a peek and that the vast being of Bob is still a mystery to us all.

If you read it you will, like probably everyone who reads it, be happily anticipating Volume Two.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
It was such a relief to read this first installment of Dylan's autobiography to find a simple, eloquent, and relatively brief self-appraisal. What I came away with reading this is that Dylan knows there is a large industry surrounding his music and persona, but he hasn't let it taint him. Having written and published some articles about Dylan and other folk music stalwarts myself, I now have come to the conclusion that such work only adds to the mythologies that we eventually have to work our way out of, once we create them. How many biographies and scholarly reconstructions has he been subject to? Give the guy a break!!

That said, Dylan has very skillfully and artfully constructed a highly readable and entertaining memoir that ultimately focuses on his becoming a part of, and eventually transcending, the Greenwich Village folk scene. Dylan's writing is especially effective in recreating the "flavor" of those days. I can almost picture him walking through the Village streets as a young man with his eye on the prize: that is, to put himself across through his music. His focus, it would seem, was always on his art (screw the politics!!).

I was puzzled by his inclusion about the chapter on recording the "Oh Mercy" album with Daniel Lanois, sandwiched between recollections of his boyhood and his early journey through the Greenwich Village folk clubs. After thinking about its placement, though, I imagined that he was writing about his own discovery, and then re-discovery, of what the artistic process entails. For someone to whom it seemingly came easy, it wasn't that easy after all.

I rated the book four stars instead of five because Dylan is such a work in progress himself. He's never a finished product: not his music, not his prose writing. There's always something new to discover in his work. I am so grateful to him for that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
a rambling, disconnected but thoroughly engrossing look at his journey that became the legend of Bob Dylan..the answers my friend are blowing in the wind..maybe, not the answer and insight to the great questions that you are seeking but if you want to understand or at least come to a better understanding of the forces that drive the great artists then Bob has tried to give you an insight..if you want the gossip and lurid details, go elsewhere..this is an artist revealing the essence of what makes him's all about the music..and that drive to express what lies in one's soul..I loved Vol. 1...can't wait for Vol. 2
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was reading 1 and 2 star reviews of this book and got sick of the whining and complaining by their respective authors. Bob doesn't tell us what his songs mean, Bob doesn't tell us about his wives and kids, bla bla bla. Look, Bob's going tell what Bob wants the public to know, and what he tells in the book I found interesting. It was like hearing someone tell stories that happened during his life. We all do that with our families and friends. What is wrong with him talking about what he feels fit? Why can't people accept the fact that he doesn't want his personal life open to the general public??? Once that happens, maybe they might find the book an interesting read.

Aside from this, I did find the book intereseting and funny. I liked the flow of the language. I enjoyed reading his descriptions of things, how he saw them, and how he saw himself. You can learn a lot about people by listening to the way they talk and how they perceive themselves (whether it is an accurate perception or not).

Reviews were written saying that he seems like less of a genius and more human...duh...Hasn't Dylan been saying that for 4 decades? Now that some people have read his book, they finally believe it. Maybe the book does give more insight to the man than they thought!!

If you are looking for juicy gossip about Bob, this is not the book for you. I can't believe that people expected him to write about affairs he had, rude things he said, or whatever. Maybe this would have been better...Chronicles Vol 1: Bob Dylan's Failures. Unfortunately, people would have eaten it up like vultures because today's society thrives on sex and other's misfortunes. Who in their right mind is going to write a book telling total strangers all of their faults, failures, and personal problems during their lifetime? Would you?

Hey, if you are a Dylan fan, read the book. If you aren't, why did you buy it in the first place???
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sara hussain
This book has a few glaring omissions: Where's the index? Many times during my reading of the book, I wanted to refer to something I'd already read or to share a passage with a friend, but I couldn't find it without tedious paging backward. An index would really add value. Furthermore, clearly, Bob Dylan has his own idiosyncratic narrative style, but the book has errors that interfere with the most basic enjoyment of the story, and one wonders if there was a copyeditor, or if the proofreader was awake. The publisher has done the author and the reader a disservice if the reader stops in the middle of a paragraph to think "Huh?" -- only to realize that a twitch of a blue pencil could have kept the prose on track. And I am not referring to Dylan's elliptical style, which requires the reader to keep extra alert; I am referring to mangled content.

So, I am looking forward to the next volume of the chronicle, but in the hope that the publisher will apply some resources to earning its share of the royalties.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Bob Dylan finally sets the record straight, sort of. This isn't a traditional autobiography, in that it doesn't tell his life story from beginning to now. Instead, he focuses on a handful of time periods in his life, jumping back and forth in time. Well, Dylan's music has always been unconventional, so why shouldn't his book be the same? The parts of his life that he does choose to tell us are very interesting, and he tells it brilliantly. His descriptions are very evocative, and he seems to have a very detailed memory of everything that ever happened to him. This is one of the best autobiographies ever written by an entertainer. I should also mention that Entertainment Weekly named this book the Non-Fiction Book of the Year. Entertainment Weekly may not be as prestigious as Publishers Weekly, but it still has to count for something.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kenneth coke
Might be like a Fellini film - hypersensitive to external stimuli and an overwrought, ambitious internal voice. Full of interesting characters and situations, non-linear, but ultimately revealing of the man. Of his times and timeless ruminations. Enjoyable read for this casual Dylan fan; must-read for Dylan fanatics.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
armando martz
Bob Dylan wrote a book of memoirs called Chronicles: Volume One. I remember that he wrote a book before that, called Tarantula, that perplexed critics and public alike. It was kind of esoteric, and that is an understatement. Indecipherable is more like it. I never read it, but from the buzz I gathered that it could have been a prank, like he was just going to put out a book because so many people were pestering him for the answers, like he was the spokesman for a generation he didn't claim to be from or to understand. This will shut them up, he told himself. Why did James Joyce write Finnegan's Wake? Why did F. Scott Fitzgerald write The Great Gatsby? Why does anybody write anything? Leave me alone, he seemed to be saying.

With Tarantula in mind, I was about to write off Chronicles: Volume One. I did read it though, and I was surprised that it was very well written:

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Page 103

New York City was cold, muffled and mysterious, the capital of the world. On 7th Avenue I passed the building where Walt Whitman had lived and worked. I paused momentarily imagining him printing away and singing the true song of his soul. I had stood outside of Poe's house on 3rd Street, too, and had done the same thing, staring mournfully up at the windows. The city was like some uncarved block without any name or shape and it showed no favortism. Everything was always new, always changing. It was never the same old crowd upon the streets.
I crossed over from Hudson to Spring, passed a garbage can loaded with bricks and stopped into a coffee shop. The waitress at the lunch counter wore a close-fitting suede blouse. It outlined the well-rounded lines of her body. She had blue-black hair covered with a kerchief and piercing blue eyes, clear stenciled eyebrows. I was wishing she'd pin a rose on me. She poured the steaming coffee and I turned back towards the street window. The whole city was dangling in front of my nose. I had a vivid idea of where everything was. The future was nothing to worry about. It was awfully close.

There is a little story about the book that I would like to relate to you all. It is really only tangentially about the book, but sometimes the tangents are better than the main thrust. Bob Dylan was going to play somewhere in the Northwest--either Portland or Seattle, one of those places. Opening for him was none other than Merle Haggard, Bakersfield's favorite son, the "Okie from Muskogee." Actually, Merle's father was from Muskogee, but Merle was born in Bakersfield. Anyway, that was a big hit for Merle, so that is who you'd think of whenever someone said "Okie from Muskogee."

Buck Owens was from Oklahoma, but he settled in Bakersfield, and he is now associated with Bakersfield. They named Buck Owens Blvd. after him, and that is where the Crystal Palace, his night club and restaurant, now sits. He also bought the iconic Bakersfield sign and moved it from Union Avenue to right next to the Crystal Palace. Years after they named a street for Buck, they finally got around to giving Merle a street, too. They renamed part of Seventh Standard Road Merle Haggard Blvd. It runs all the way to Oildale, which is where Merle was born, in a converted boxcar on Yosemite St that is still there today.

As a young man Merle was an inmate at San Quentin Federal Prison. But once he became famous with hits like "Okie From Muskogee" and "Fightin' Side of Me" he was embraced by the conservatives and was given a full pardon from then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Merle played at the White House for President Nixon. At this time in history Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard would seem to be polar opposites. A counter-culture clash. It is true that Dylan was friends and had recorded with Johnny Cash, but he was from a different country of Country Music. Who would have dreamed that Merle Haggard would later be opening for Bob Dylan? In fact, Dylan probably wanted Merle to be on the bill with him because he knew what a great singer and songwriter he was. A long time secret admirer. It was Dylan's choice to have Haggard open for him. The Times They Really Are A'Changin'.

Buck and Merle go way back, in fact they were both married to the same woman, Bonnie Owens, but at different times. Buck wanted to go to the show and he took his entourage up there with him in his private plane. Backstage at the Dylan show were Ringo Starr, who had recorded one of Buck's songs, "Act Naturally," so they knew each other. Ringo's wife was there, and also the guy who played Wohojowitz on Barnie Miller. Funny thing is, Wohojowitz and Ringo were there as much to see Merle as Dylan, because both Ringo and Wohojowitz were HUGE country music fans. Buck might not have been so keen on seeing Dylan, actually, but he brought along one of his signature Red, White, & Blue Telecasters, inscribed with some heartfelt sentiments to present to him.

In comes Bob, trying to wear a cowboy hat, but with his big frizzy afro, it sat uneasy on his head. Buck gave him the guitar, and Dylan gave Buck a copy of his new book, Chronicles: Volume One. Those present, who knew Buck well, doubted he would actually read the book, but he accepted it graciously. I like that story, and I also doubt that he read the book before he passed on, but I can just imagine the look on his face. But if he had read the book, he probably would have liked it a lot. Buck once said he liked The Rolling Stones better than The Beatles.

It wasn't what you'd expect. Sometimes it would veer into the more esoteric style when he was trying to communicate matters of arcane lore, but he mostly told the story with vivid details that were very easy to follow. You'd wonder how he could describe things that happened so long ago with such accuracy, but he must have kept a journal. Maybe he knew the day would come when he'd want to preserve his life for posterity.

Though Bob Dylan does have a rather rambling style of writing, he does eventually get to the point. For instance, one part starts off saying that he is going to tell you about someone, but then many paragraphs and pages later, he still hasn't gotten around to it. Maybe this is an old raconteur's technique, because I kept turning the pages wondering if he would ever get back to it. When he finally did, I felt relieved, like I had been holding my breath while watching a juggler juggling knives, torches, and chainsaws. The book kind of skips around in time, too. It starts off when he is young and progresses chronologically, but it jumps over the best part, the height of his songwriting prowess when he wrote all those masterpieces.

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I kept my sights on the Gaslight. How could I not? Compared to it, the rest of the places on the street were nameless and miserable, low-level basket houses or small coffeehouses where the performer passed the hat. But I began to play as many as I could. I had no choice. The narrow streets were infused with them. They were small and ranged in shape, loud and noisy and catered to the confection of tourists who swarmed through the streets at night. Anything could pass for one--double door parlor rooms, storefronts, second story walk-ups, basements below street level, all holes in the wall.
There was an unusual beer and wine place on 3rd Street in what used to be Aaron Burr's livery stable, now called Café Bizarre. The patrons were mostly workingmen who sat around laughing, cussing, eating red meat, talking pussy. There was a small stage in the back and I played there once or twice. I probably played all the places at one time or another. Most of them stayed open 'til the break of day, kerosene lamps and sawdust on the floor, some with wooden benches, a strong-armed guy at the door--no cover charge and the owners tried to offload as much coffee as they could. Performers either sat or stood in the window, visible to the street, or were positioned at the opposite end of the room facing the door, singing at the top of their voices. No microphones or anything.
Talent scouts didn't come to these dens. They were dark and dingy and the atmosphere was chaotic. Performers sang and passed the hat or played while watching tourists file past, hoping some of them would toss coins into a breadbasket or guitar case. On weekends, if you played all the joints from dusk 'til dawn, you could make maybe twenty dollars. Weeknights it was hard to tell. Sometimes not much because it was so competitive. You had to know a trick or two to survive.

He is a young folk singer knocking around Greenwich Village, meeting up with people like Thelonious Monk, and the next thing you know, he is in a recording studio trying to recapture his old glory. I think that may have been a raconteur's trick, too. Hold back some of the good stuff for Chronicles: Volumes Two, Three, and Four. Sometimes the point he is trying to make is that he is just a normal guy trying to support his wife and kids. That kind of made me laugh. I pictured him giving his son Jacob advice about the music biz. 'You'll never make it in Rock. Your voice is too normal sounding.'

Adjacent to this concern is how people are trying to hold him up as some kind of prophet or spokesman. He made a movie called Masked & Anonymous that could be seen as a fable wrapped in his myth. Dylan played Jack Fate, a singer who'd just been released from prison into a very unstable country:

Jack Fate: I was always a singer and maybe no more then that. Sometimes it's not enough to know the meaning of things, sometimes we have to know what things don't mean as well. Like what does it mean to not know what the person you love is capable of? Things fall apart, especially all the neat order of rules and laws. The way we look at the world is the way we really are. See it from a fair garden and everything looks cheerful. Climb to a higher plateau and you'll see plunder and murder. Truth and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. I stopped trying to figure everything out a long time ago.

I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoyed Chronicles: Volume One and wanted to gain a deeper understanding. Ebert hated it, gave it two thumbs way down, but it seems like he had a personal vendetta against Dylan, and just didn't get him, and would never get him, as a musician, as a poet, as an actor, or as a writer. Renaldo and Clara might not be such a good choice, with Bob Dylan playing Renaldo. To like that, you'd probably have to also like his previous book, Tarantula. To like that movie, you'd even have to be a fan of his harmonica playing. Not that Renaldo plays harmonica, but you'd have to be that much of a hard core Dylan fanatic to like Renaldo and Clara. But you could get by Masked & Anonymous with just a mild appreciation, as long as you weren't a playah hatah like Ebert.

I remember Mad Magazine did a parody of Bob Dylan, and instead of "The Times They Are A'Changin'" he was saying "These tunes I am a'changin'." Funny that Bob says the same thing himself, essentially, about his early songwriting days. He was mostly learning folk songs, but he would change a line here or there. Something happened though, and he had an epiphany and the flood gates were opened. He talks about some obvious influences, and some more unlikely ones:

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In a few years' time, I'd write and sing songs like "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and some others like that. If I hadn't gone to the Theatre de Lys and heard the ballad "Pirate Jenny," it might not have dawned on me to write them, that songs like these could be written. In about 1964 and '65, I probably used about five or six of Robert Johnson's blues song forms, too, unconsciously, but more on the lyrical imagery side of things. If I hadn't heard the Robert Johnson record when I did, there probably would have been hundreds of lines of mine that would have been shut down--that I wouldn't have felt free enough or upraised enough to write. I wasn't the only one who learned a thing or two from Johnson's compositions. Johnny Winter, the flamboyant Texan guitar player born a couple of years after me, rewrote Johnson's song about the phonograph, turning it into a song about a television set. Johnny's tube is blown and his picture won't come in. Robert Johnson would have loved that. Johnny, by the way, recorded a song of mine, "Highway 61 Revisted," which itself was influenced by Johnson's writing. It's strange the way circles hook up with themselves. Robert Johnson's code of language was like nothing I'd heard before or since. To go with all of that, someplace along the line Suze had also introduced me to the poetry of French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. That was a big deal, too. I came across one of his letters called "Je est un autre," which translates into "I is someone else." When I read those words the bells went off. It made perfect sense. I wished someone would have mentioned that to me earlier. It went right along with Johnson's dark night of the soul and Woody's hopped-up union meeting sermons and the "Pirate Jenny" framework. Everything was in transition and I was standing in the gateway. Soon I'd step in heavy loaded, fully alive and revved up. Not quite yet, though.

In Chronicles: Volume One, there is a part in it where Dylan is really famous and people are starting to take notice. He gets a letter from poet Archibald MacLeish inviting him to drop in and visit. We have a little dog called Archibald MacLeish, Arch Duke of Cornwall, Arch Bishop of Canterbury. He is part Pomeranian and part Wire Haired Chihuahua. I know that it is illogical for him to be both an arch duke and a member of the clergy, let alone a Poet Laureate and Wurlitzer Prize winner, but we usually just call him Archie for short. His full name doesn't fit on his dog tag. The poet Archibald MacLeish is writing a play and wants to discuss the prospect of Dylan writing some songs for it:

::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Page 111

MacLeish tells me that he considers me a serious poet and that my work would be a touchstone for generations after me, that I was a postwar Iron Age poet but that I had seemingly inherited something metaphysical from a bygone era. He appreciated my songs because they involved themselves with society, that we had many traits and associations in common and that I didn't care for things the way he didn't care for them. At one point he had to excuse himself momentarily, left the room. I glanced out the window. The afternoon sun was breaking, throwing a vague radiance to the earth. A jackrabbit scampered past the scattered chips by the woodpile. When he returned things fell back into place. MacLeish picked up where he left off. MacLeish tells me that Homer, who wrote the Iliad, was a blind balladeer and that his name means "hostage." He also told me that there's a difference between art and propaganda and he told me the difference between the effects. He asked me if I'd ever read the French poet François Villon, and I told him that I did read him and then he said he saw some slight influence in my work. Archie spoke about blank verse, rhyme verse, elegiacs, ballads, limericks and sonnets. He asked me what I had sacrificed to pursue my dreams. He said the worth of things can't be measured by what they cost but by what they cost you to get it, that if anything costs you your faith or your family, then the price is too high and that there are some things that will never wear out.

You can glean a bit of what inspired him to write those great songs from reading Chronicles: Volume One, but he must be saving "the secret" for future volumes. I remember when I first heard Bob Dylan. My friend Otto was reading the paper at his house on Jansen Avenue that we all called The Walls, and I burst in with the vinyl solution. I played it for him but he was nonplussed. He thought it was okay, but derivative.

I let Otto go back to his newspaper, said I'd see him later and put the vinyl back in the cardboard sleeve. The record that didn't grab Otto very much had left me numb, like I'd been hit by a tranquilizer bullet. Later, at my 4th Street pad I put the record on again and listened to it all by myself. Didn't want to play it for anybody else.

Over the next few weeks I listened to it repeatedly, cut after cut, one song after another, sitting staring at the record player. Whenever I did, it felt like a ghost had come into the room, a fearsome apparition. The songs were layered with a startling economy of lines. Dylan masked the presence of more than twenty men. I fixated on every song and wondered how Dylan did it. Songwriting for him was some highly sophisticated business. The compositions seemed to come right out of his mouth and not his memory, and I started meditating on the construction of the verses, seeing how different they were from Lefty Frizzell's. Dylan's words made my nerves quiver like piano wires. They were so elemental in meaning and feeling and gave you so much of the inside picture. It's not that you could sort out every moment carefully, because you can't. There are too many missing terms and too much dual existence. Dylan bypasses tedious descriptions that other song writers would have written whole songs about. There's no guarantee that any of his lines either happened, were said, or even imagined.

I copied Dylan's words down on scraps of paper so I could more closely examine the lyrics and patterns, the construction of his old-style lines and the free association that he used, the sparkling allegories, big-bottomed truths wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction--themes that flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I didn't have any of these dreams or thoughts but I was going to acquire them. But how? How had he done it? There is a scene where he reflects on a recording session, a much later recording session. The producer seemed disappointed that he hadn't been able to muster his talent sufficiently to reach his previous plateau:

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Page 218

I would have liked to been able to give him the kinds of songs that he wanted, like "Masters of War," "Hard Rain," "Gates of Eden," but those kinds of songs were written under different circumstances, and circumstances never repeat themselves. Not exactly. I couldn't get to those kinds of songs for him or anyone else. To do it, you've got to have power and dominion over the spirits. I had done it once, and once was enough. Someone would come along eventually who would have it again--someone who could see into things, the truth of things--not metaphorically, either--but really see, like seeing into metal and making it melt, see it for what it was and reveal it for what it was with hard words and vicious insight.

Dylan goes on to say that lately he is listening to Ice-T, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run-D.M.C. You might think it strange that Dylan would be into Rap, but what was "Subterranean Homesick Blues" if it wasn't a Rap? He expects someone to appear out of that scene. He'd be "able to balance himself on one leg on a tightrope that stretched across the universe and you'd know him when he came--there'd be only one like him." Dylan felt that he had come along at a seminal moment in history, but that moment had passed. Still, you can't take that away from him:

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I was born in the spring of 1941. The second World War was already raging in Europe, and America would soon be in it. The world was being blown apart and chaos was already driving its fist into the face of all new visitors. If you were born around this time or were living and alive, you could feel the old world go and the new one beginning. It was like putting the clock back to when B.C. became A.D. Everybody born around my time was a part of both. Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini, Stalin, Roosevelt--towering figures that the world would never see the likes of again, men who relied on their own resolve, for better or worse, every one of them prepared to act alone, indifferent to approval--indifferent to wealth or love, all presiding over the destiny of mankind and reducing the world to rubble. Coming from a long line of Alexanders and Julius Caesars, Genghis Khans, Charlemagnes and Napoleons, they carved up the world like a really dainty dinner. Whether they parted their hair in the middle or wore a Viking helmet, they would not be denied and were impossible to reckon with--rude barbarians stampeding across the earth and hammering out their own ideas of geography.

Tarantula by Bob Dylan
Masked and Anonymous
Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back
Lyrics: 1962-2001 by Bob Dylan
The Times They Are a-Changin'
The Basement Tapes
Highway 61 Revisited
Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan - No Direction Home

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The folk music scene had been like a paradise that I had to leave, like Adam had to leave the garden. It was just too perfect. In a few years' time a $#*! storm would be unleashed. Things would begin to burn. Bras, draft cards, American flags, bridges, too--everybody would be dreaming of getting it on. The national psyche would change and in a lot of ways it would resemble the Night of the Living Dead. The road out would be treacherous, and I didn't know where it would lead but I followed it anyway. It was a strange world ahead that would unfold, a thunderhead of a world with jagged lightning edges. Many got it wrong and never did get it right. I went straight into it. It was wide open. One thing for sure, not only was it not run by God, but it wasn't run by the devil either.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heather miller
Not many books hold my attention. They sit around my house half unread. Add to that my short attention span and that I don't want to bother reading any fictional words from an unknown somebody's book. I'm old enough to be Bob Dylan's daughter and have never owned one of his albums. Of course I know his music classics that other people have covered over the years...many I didn't know Bob had written until reading this book. I came to this book with an open mind, not a 4 decades follower of Bob Dylan like many of the other reviewers. With that background info in mind......I started Bob Dylan's book Chronicles Volume 1 and could not put it down. It opened a door into the sixties and Folk music era that took place when I was a wee toddler but have always been very curious about. It provides real, personal moments as Bob talks and you sense his enthusiasm or other emotions all intertwined. His words and phrasing bounced my mind around on the page and into different years and descriptions in each sentence. I learned about the music world then, his contacts, friends, desires, wishes, ups/downs, a life event here and there, and I was spellbound by the the visual imagery he succinctly provided thru a few words when telling of places, events, people, his journey and personal moments in his life - one after another. I thought many of his ways/wordings were very salt-of-the-earth "Midwestern" that someone not raised in the Midwest wouldn't recognize or be able to smile about while reading...I should know since I'm from Missouri. I laughed several times. He's funny as well. Bob, please write your next book soon. I'm waiting for it impatiently. Until then, I purchased my first Bob Dylan album and listened last night (Modern Times). Songs 4 and 7 made me cry. The words & images in both his songs and book are intriguing, beautiful, real, unexpected. The tunes can grip the mind. Thanks to Bob Dylan for opening up the door to his life after all these years. He didn't have to and could've just faded away like so many others.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mohammad ashraf
Chronicles, Volume One

Bob Dylan

Dylan has always had a lot to say in his songs. Perhaps the most esteemed songwriter of his generation, Bob Dylan was famously guarded about details of his personal life. Many have tried to unmask him through books, films and interviews, but he has been an elusive subject. Thus, the publishing of an autobiography holds the tantalizing possibility of providing a window into the private life and intimate details of the one-time Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minnesota. And details there are, aplenty. He seems to remember every piece of furniture and window covering in every room he stayed in during the early `60s. But the things people usually seek in a celebrity bio...the triumphs, the tragedies, the romance...are nearly absent. In its place, Dylan has painstakingly charted the development of a singular style and revealed a creative process that continues to evolve to this day. And in so doing, he reveals more about himself by deconstructing his art than would ever have been provided by a more conventional tell-all.

The book's five long chapters skip about in time, fast-forwarding from the Woodstock era to a late `80s album recorded in New Orleans to his earliest days in Greenwich he evolves from a Woody Guthrie imitator to the "voice of a generation," a term Dylan never wanted anything to do with. The prose style bounces around from attempts to sound like a novel writer ("I cast an embracing glance over the primordial landscape") to the rapid-fire, kaleidoscopic wordplay that one might expect from a familiarity with his songs. His eye for details can describe the inventory of a quirky Mississippi Delta store and yet fail to mention how he met his wife, whom he never addresses by name. He admits to an admiration for Barry Goldwater. The contrasts are jarring...just when he seems to be shedding light on something, he shape-shifts into something else.

But page by page, a rhythm develops, and the style sheds its mannerisms and begins to make sense. A compelling account of the recording of "Oh Mercy" in New Orleans with legenedary moodmeister Daniel Lanois is stunning in its insight into the creative process of working with songs...some cooperative, some a studio fashioned out of a Victorian house in New Orleans' Garden District. Meditations on the nature of place, whether it's Minnesota or Greenwich Village, are illuminating. And his breathless account of the arrival of another piece of his personal creative puzzle in describing the art of modernist artist Red Grooms is spellbinding:

"He incorporated every living thing into something and made it scream - everything side by side created equal - old tennis shoes, vending machines, alligators that crawled through sewers, dueling pistols, the Staten Island Ferry and Trinity Church, 42nd Street, profiles of skyscrapers. Brahman bulls, cowgirls, rodeo queens and Mickey Mouse heads, castle turrets and Mrs. O'Leary's cow, creeps and greasers and weirdos and grinning, bejeweled nude models, faces with melancholy looks, blurs of sorrow - everything hilarious but not jokey...subconsciously, I was wondering if it was possible to write songs like that."

Dylan closes the book by returning to his roots...both literally and musically. Lovingly remembered vignettes of growing up in Minnesota are interspersed with heartfelt tributes to the legends that informed his work...Woody Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Robert Johnson...and sharp observations of the things that made each of them a legend, and what Dylan could incorporate into his own style. And though the book may be short on kiss-and-tell stories, the portrait that emerges is one of a vital artist trying to make sense of the world around him, and through his songs, reveal its meaning to the rest of us.

Since the title is Chronicles, Volume One, it can only be assumed that there's more where that came from. And it seems totally in character for Dylan to reveal only part of it at a time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This book is a must have for all Dylan fans...However, until I read several biographies of Dylan I could not make sense out of the chapters that involved going to New Orleans with his "wife", who clearly was his second wife, but at the time I first read the book I thought he was referring to Sarah Dylan, his first wife. A bit confusing but I guess Dylan didn't think it was important to clarify the information...He also doesn't talk about his state of mind that lead him to have a spiritual encounter with Christ. But maybe that will be in Chronicles: Volume II?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anmar arif
I read this because I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan. I had read a biography of him before (Simple Twist of Fate, a very good book) and I thought that it was good to know about somebody who's music you like. Then I heard that Chronicles came out. I knew that Dylan wasn't very open today, and this might be a chance to see his life from his point of view. So I curiously bought it and read through it. I was slightly disappointed after reading it, but then realized that Dylan is a musician and songwriter, not a book writer, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. The book gives interesting insight into his life and about things that had not been known about him much before. Much of the book was Dylan listing names of people who had helped him, people who he admired, played with, wrote songs about or with, etc... He also listed places where he went, names of songs that he heard or made, and other artists he admired. I found that this style of writing made for a boring book. The thing I found that was good about the book was that Dylan commented on events in his life from his own point of view. One of the main things I learned was that he really did not think of himself as a symbol of a generation, only a musician. That, I think, is the value of this book, not the history that is written in it. Also, there are some parts of the book that are just plain weird-but, hey-that's Dylan.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I fear I may be one of those people unable to look critically at anything Dylan does, and that I think it's all perfect. Oh well.

Amazingly, this autobiography doesn't cover any of the stuff you really want to know about. What was his childhood like? How was it when he first broke on the folk scene? Why'd he go electric? What happened in the 80s? What explains his great albums of the past decade? Dylan avoids all of that. About a quarter of the book is about making Oh Mercy. Oh Mercy?!

But it works. Maybe the moments he describes aren't the moments you wanted to learn about when you picked up the book, but they are amazing anyway and great to read about. You come away learning a ton about Dylan, his influences, and the way he thinks.

This is, obviously, a must for any Dylan fan.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
becky ranks
A book filled with deep-etched faces, powerful voices, strange turns of the corner, hilarity, sadness, and surprise. Dylan's resistance to self-voyeurism enables him to cast the light onto others, characters as memorable as I've found in print. Like Ray and Chloe with whom B lives in NY (or stays with--he's never clear about the banalities like who splits rent with whom). We discover their library (and the inside of the books as narrated through Dylan's life), their proverbs, their worries (some of which send Dylan to the NY Public Library to read Civil War era papers convinced that the Civil War is haunting everyone around). Here are people living their lives and thinking at the same time; a world at odd with the way thinking is supposed to be parcelled off from living. And New York itself as a universe, a dance, a dark symbol, and a mystery, and yet another amazing person. And later Dylan works back to those he played music with in Minnesota, and the Gothic dourman Pankake who makes it his mission to tell BD he's no Guthrie.

Then Dylan hides from crazed hordes who would proclaim him prophet, redeemer, and soul of a generation, who want to climb all over his house, and move in with him, kick him out of bed and drink his beer). The high point here is David Crosby's pithy comment on the honorary degree ceremony at Princeton (recounted by BD with a poignant honesty all around). I won't spoil it by giving it away here.

Finally BD drives out into the New Orleans countryside and stops at an offroad museum run by a man named Sun Pie. Here are ten pages of brilliant, bizarre, strange discoveries. And for those who have the lyrics to "Highlands" "Love and Theft" or "Things Have Changed" in their brain, there is a whole other level of appreciation.

After Ray and Chloe, Sun Pie, Bertold Brecht's Pirate Jenny who calls out destruction all around, the sad Archibald Macleish, Robert Johnson as debated by BD and Dave Van Ronk, BD's grandmother (always remember everyone is fighting a hard battle)-- to mention only a few of the moments in this book that have become like old friends I could talk about forever-- I came away amazed and already sad the last page was turned; like leaving the concert hall at the end of BD's inspired November 2000 concert in Philadelphia.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cheryl jones
Some people have said this book doesn't reveal enough about Bob Dylan's personal life and that it skips around too much. I feel differently. Far as self-disclosure goes, Bob Dylan will never write a tell all, because that's just not the kind of person he is. I was very happy with the many personal thoughts and experiences he did share in Chronicles; he was way more open that I expected. This book does not read like a normal story. It's true. Bob doesn't always stick to a chronological line, but in no way does that detract from this unique and wonderful book. The joy in reading this autobiography doesn't lie in seeing Dylan neatly connect the dots. For me, it is just in taking each thought as it comes and enjoying it. Bob explains everything he's seen and done down to the most minute detail. In the book Dylan claims to "never forget a face," and I believe him. He certainly has close to a photographic memory. He remembers things from 30 years ago that I would have forgotten about yesterday - he's a professional observer if there ever was one. It's really unbelievable. It's easy to see that he's a very well read individual. This you will see in the book, as he elaborates and gives interpretations on the works of author after author, poet after poet. His unique personal writing style is no doubt a result of these many influences. I enjoyed this book more than anything I've read in a long time. I eagerly await Chronicles, vol. 2. and if you find Bob Dylan fascinating, I'd highly recommend Chronicles, vol. 1.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Though much has been said about this book, I have to add my raves. I don't know how this would be if you are not a regular listener and a big fan--I'll never know that side of life--but it was the best thing I've heard.

On the down side it is abridged, which I hate. They should call it hacked instead, but even more they should call it a practice of the past. What a ridiculous concept abridgment is. Why not also take a few verses out of his songs to save a little more time?

But on the up side is the revelation of how Bob's creative process works and where he is coming from. You would tend to think God personally inhabited him during his finest writing, and perhaps this is true. But what I found was a portrait of an artist I could relate to (though never match). What is laid clear is a working artist, full of the foibles of humanity, slugging away at his career. I personally found the honesty bare and brave and the invitation into one of the greatest creative minds of history a rare opportunity indeed. It's a good read by Sean Penn.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
birgit coleman
I am a big Bob Dylan Fan. This book did not reveal very many secrets about the inner workings of the "voice of our generation". It abruptly skips from 1960-1989 and back without warning. For example, he was describing a career saving voice technique that he employed in the late 1980's, but he failed to describe what the technique was. He also, did not fully explain why he wrote protest music but did not consider himself anything but a concerned onlooker.I just kept on waiting for the book to kick-in, but instead it twists and turns down a winding road leading to a dead end.

To the books credit, Dylan did paint an interesting portrait of characters he met in Greenwich village in the early 1960's. He also included trivial and disjointed arbitrary series of occurances with great attention to detail. He also focused on some of his lesser known songs like "Dignity" and "Political World" instead of the more popular ones. There was alot of detail but not alot of depth and analysis. He listed his musical influences like Neil Sedaka and Woody Guthrie, but he doesn't explain exactly what about their music inspired him.

I thought that this book would give me revelation and all I got was a "watercooler" level discouse. I guess we will have to continue to learn about "the real" Bob Dylan from others.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tracy collier
I have always been a huge fan of Bob Dylan's music, and am now probably a bigger fan than ever. As I listen to his older music, some of it for the first time, and compare it to the tripe from other acts that record companies "manufacture" these days, Dylan's music is a true treasure.

I've seen Dylan in concert twice, both times in the 70's, and have invested in tickets to see him in November 2006 in Toronto. In summary, I trust that I've qualified myself as a genuine fan of Bob Dylan's music.

As it relates to Dylan's "Chronicles Volume One", however, I am somewhat less enthusiastic.

On the positive side, the book provides great insights into how Dylan saw the world, in particular his disdain for the celebrity (at times messianic) status that was accorded him. Also, Dylan is skilled at describing the landscapes in which he lived, especially Hibbing and New York City. Finally, Dylan reveals a lot about the mechanics and orientation of his creative process, which is interesting and inspiring.

On the other hand, I have issues with some of the book's content, as well as with its style. As for content, Dylan writes about dozens of people, mostly musicians, that he claims had a big influence in his life. This is all well and good, except that the reader, unless s|he knows of these people prior to reading the book, has a tough time getting to know them beyond a superficial level; they remain quite anonymous. This was particularly true about Dylan's wife, to whom he refers repeatedly as nothing more than "my wife"; he NEVER states her name. While I respect Dylan's need to maintain the privacy of his family members, it would do his wife no harm, and would have warmed up his commentary, if he had provided his wife's name; to have not done so seems quite strange.

As for style, the book seems to have been written by a genius with relatively little formal education. If this is true, so be it. However, I cannot help but think that Dylan would have enhanced his image (if he cared to do so) if this book could have steered clear of numerous, often embarrassing, errors in spelling, grammar and syntax. Either Dylan wrote this book without the input of an editor, or he had an editor who either failed to see the errors, or saw them and agreed to leave them. For example, "Once, me and Clayton were sitting..." (pg 49 of the trade paperback edition); "[I]...was on Boliva time..." (pg 50); "One time Clayton and myself came in late..." (pg 57); "Evidentially they didn't know they were being photographed." (pg 66); "...incredulously, the charges against her were dropped." (pg 66); " and Delores were about to leave..." (pg 69); "... one of [Tony Bennett's] records was laying around..." (pg 95); "I sunk into the water..." (pg 100); "You could work slow here." (pg 179). Each of these missteps detracts from the work.

Overall, I'm glad that I bought and read Chronicles Volume One, and I recommend it to Dylan fans. In fact, I plan to buy Volume Two if and when it is published. I just hope that Dylan lets a skilled editor enhance his written work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I'm making way again reading Chronicles, it's my second time through. It takes the entire book to understand what makes an artist an artist, and when Columbia Records signed Bob, it had the power to make him become as the one whom we all know him as today. He follows along the tradition of folk music, and yet, within that tradition he learned so well the ways of the past that he would be accepted as an artist even before he has written the music.

Knowing the book is Dylan's autobiography, I expected to read from the perspective of, or, having a given notion that a story would be told about how the songs were written, by the manner they could be inspired. The latter meaning that finding the inspiration is the deeper more profound nature of the story as Bob does write constructively in the similar form as are his lyrics and music. The catch phrase there being the musical form and with this he tells a lingering story of meeting up with Bono who leads him on to record another record in New Orleans with Danny Lanois.

It is fair to say that even to this day most of the songs are still sung with an affliction of a dialect that captures our time as the measured space from that time the song was first inspired. The passages written throughout the storyline of the book put together a grandeur more complex understanding of just how omni-present ones life becomes to have achieved what Bob has accomplished, beginning within the moments he knew he could play guitar, so handedly playing the music he enjoyed whilst underlying his own talent allowing him to simply play along... In the course of such sanctity he reads one great book after another, as it is the same way he listens to records, and then seeks for artists following relentlessly his own spirit until finally meeting his immortal icon Woody Guthrie, bed ridden. Woody listens to Bob play and Bob stays with Woody until they each can find no end to the meaning of the words their music could have lived for himself.

On the surface the story writes about the times he grew up as a child amongst friends and family living in the iron ore range that is still the driving force of America's industrial revolution. Virtually every car made in Detroit would have been fabricated with the ore that was for a time Dylan's boyhood home and upbringing.

It is in New York though, that if you were from the area yourself or in the same way knew of any other place brought into the discussion, then pieces fit together about the goings on of the emerging cultural lives in such backgrounds as Greenwich Village. It's the most intricate detail to understand how Bob goes about learning an insightful dictation of knowledge that elapses his own will and eventual transformation of self to the impresario that lives the life his words give rise to within the lyric of their own musings.

Ones immediate impression is within the forces of living about New York City, as an artist, Dylan travels in this virtuous manner of that as a performer to such brevity and light, guided by this talent that the magnitude he reveals himself as, is that merely as a person who lived through folk music learning to sing while playing guitar. Generally speaking it's more than just a good time.

It's Alright Ma From deluxe edition Don't Look Back outtakes
- 1965
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sassy britches
And, you get a look inside the mind of a creative genius, both his philosophy and a detailed look at the steps taken to reach his goals.

" dawned on me that I might have to change my inner thought patterns...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 disorientate myself."

This book is worth reading and keeping.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Just when you thought that Bob Dylan would never come through with his autobiography, Chronicles arrives. Of course, it isn't what anybody expected. No more than Tarantula was in the early 1970s. Back then the publishers looked forward to the Life of Bob Dylan, by Bob Dylan, and got a booklet of free-form surreal verse. Now, decades later many, no doubt, expected The Life of Bob Dylan, by Bob Dylan, and what we get is a very peculiar memoir, bits and pieces of a life, jumping about from the 1950s to the 1980s and missing huge lumps of time, and much important stuff inbetween. Don't look here for the making of Blonde on Blonde, or indeed any of Dylan's key records. Do not expect vivid first person accounts of the Rolling Thunder Revue, or singing on stage at the Town Hall in New York. None of that is here. Instead, Dylan's mind flicks across the years and he picks up and plays with things that interest him, as he pleases, things that are not necessarily what we might want to hear about: a very long and detailed account of the making of Oh Mercy, of all things, for instance. But the writing is authentic Dylan. Whatever the man has consumed over the years, his mind is razor-sharp. He has apparently an almost photographic memory, for places, people, conversation, even the sort of weather that pertained when he walked out his door one day 25 years ago. And the book is written beautifully, truly poeticially, connecting the reader with the imaginative, remarkable inner world of a man who is, surely, one of the giants of the arts in the modern world. It is also very funny. It is clever. He is humble, surprisingly so, and he is unexpected, bridling at certain assumptions about him, deeply conservative and also a free spirit in the truest sense. Fascinating. But it isn't the life of Bob Dylan as you might expect, no more than Volumes 2 and 3 will be, if he ever gets that far. It is glimpses of the life of Dylan, which is fine, but do not look here for facts, specfics, names, figures, all the details of a linear, detailed biography. That book is Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, by Howard Sounes. This book is a glimpse inside the unique mind of a remarkable and, still, elusive man, who has let his guard down just enough to give us a taste of what he is about. And it is ultimately an inspiring read. It is a book that you can finish in a day, racing along compulsively to the end, and when you put it down you feel elated, energized, wanting and willing yourself to do more, like he has done all these years, for among his other accomplishments Bob Dylan is a remarkably productive and energetic man. One day there will be statues erected in his memory. Get Chronicles, and see him in concert while you can.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
paula eeds
BOB DYlAN HAS HAD A PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON ME AS HE HAS FOR MANY OtHERS--the first time i heard his crazy whining voice his wild heavy lyrics pouring out like a volcano erupting and immediately altering my consciousness i was hoooked! it was the early 60`s i was like 14 or something my uncle turned me on to him! and ive been addicted ever since ! you can sing like that !!???? thats allowed !!?? to sound so real - so crazy- and the rhythms and melodies !!!the brilliant funny deep lyrics the poignancy - the irony the wit and genius !i couldnt get enuff of him and told everyone i knew about him and made them listen ! he rocked my world as they say---god bless john hammond for signing him up ! BUT ITS NOT BOB HIMSELF or his personal life that intrigues-- ITS HIS ART-- HIS WORDS AND MUSIC--& HE NEVER DiSSAPOINTS IN CONCERT AS FAR AS IVE SEEN-- AND IVE SEEN HIM LIVE MAYBE 10 TIMES or more- ALWAYs THRILLING-- hES A TRUE ARTIST TO ME-- HE CAN NEVER SING THE SAME SONG THE SAME WAY -- CAUSE HES ALWAYS CHANGING AND LIKE PICASSO SAID ~ MAKE IT NEW ~~ HE ALWAYS DOES--- HIS SONGS ROCK IN CONCERT AND HE ALWAYS HAS A ROCKING BAND-- HIS PRESENCE AND PERSONA - BOTH COMPELLING & POWERFUL HE LOOKS TO ME LIKE THE LITTLE PRINCE STANDING THERE ON STAGE W HIS GUITAR OR AT THE PIANO--- SLIGHT -- THIN NOT TOO TALL USUALLY IN COWBOY GEAR---AND HE AND HIS BAND WEAVE MAGIC !BUT LET US NOT CONFUSE THE MAN W HIS ART-- HE CHANNELS INSPIRATION LIKE ALL INSPIRED POETS -- BUT PLEASE BOB-- I KNOW NO ONE EVER HAS ENUFF MONEY I GUESS-- AND WHY NOT SELL EVERY SCRAP U CAN to the hungry masses !- TO ALL WHO OBSESS OVER EVERYTHING IMAGINABLE FROM THEIR pop ICONS-- BUT THIS BOOK MEMOIR WHATEVER IT IS--- ITS NONSENSE ! ITS OBVIOUS HE HAS A THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE HAS ABSORBED MUCH OF THE GREAT WRITINGS OF MAJOR POETS RIMBAUD BLAKE I CHING LAO TSE HENRY MILLER -- HIS DRAWINGS ARE INTERESTING AND HE ENJOYS EXPRESSING HIMSELF IN MANY VARIOUS MEDIA-- BOOKS MOVIES PAINTING DRAWING--- BUT ITS HIS MUSIC THAT SETS HIM APART--- HIS OTHER VENTURES IN ART/COMMERCE ( WHICH IRONICALLY OLD WILLIAM BLAKE SAYS ARE NEVER COMPATIBLE ! AND BALKE IS ALWAYS RIGHT !!)ARE DISASTROUS ILL CONCEIVED INSCRUTIBLE OVERBLOWN RAMBLING AFFAIRS BETTER LEFT UNEXPOSED---BUT SOME PEOPLE WILL BUY ANYTHING -- EVEN ME sometimes !-- BUT REALLY DONT WASTE YER TIME-- LETS NOT ENCOURAGE THIS shoddy self indulgence-- THIS BOOK IS SUPERFICIAL UNINTERESTING NOT WELL WRITTEN AND LIKE OTHERS HAVE SAID HERE- HE SKIMS OVER THINGS AND DELVES INTO OTHER THINGS AD NAUSEUM--- THE RECORDING SESSION----IN NEW ORLEANS---NOT MUCH THERE-- THE REST - BABBLING & MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING--- I DISCARDED THE BOOK AFTER READING MOST OF IT -OUT OF BOREDOM W IT--- WHAT MAKES GREAT WRITING COMPELLING IS PERSONAL/UNIVERSAL REVELATIONS-- THE TRUTH IS WHAT MAKES ART COMPELLING-- WE LAUGH AT TRUE THINGS - EVeN ON SITCOMS ON TV-- IF SOMEHTING RINGS TRUE - WE LAUGH-- ITS LIKE THE TRUTH IMMEDIATELY SETS US FREE !as was pointed out- the whole suzy rotolo thing--- skimmmed over-- no one wants his whole life exposed-- and such details are none of our bizness-- but dont pretend to write a memoir and skim over stuff and expect us to eat it up-- but eat they will apparently ! as this thin tepid offering is selling apparently and garnering much praise---dont believe any of it-- the book sucks-- listen to his music-- but for compelling inspired or revealing writing look elsewhere !it aint rolling bob !!!! but u better believe next time u come to my town - the town u had to move to to find and express yerself in the heady 60`s--i`ll be there--- eating up every minute of it !
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Like Dylan himself, this book will not suit all tastes. It is very revealing in some ways - the recording of "Oh Mercy" for instance - but frustratingly light in other areas - what happened in his motorcycle accident? how did he injure his hand? what about his wives and children? Dylans offers impressions and snapshots on his life - this is not a conventional biography of dates and names - nevertheless it is deeply revealing and even if the door is only left slightly ajar this is a privilege for Dylan fans.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If you're looking for the part of Dylan's life where he communes with the high heavens and then brings it all back home, maybe you'll have to wait for another volume.

This is his Book of Works: how he gathered himself and his materials during two disparate periods: early times before he became the world-famous recording prodigy; and later times as he tries to keep it all together for "Oh Mercy." Only briefly do we look into "star" Dylan of the Woodstock years and only then to see how desperate he felt from the inside as people tromped through his life (literally). Probably it helps to be a fan of his work, but I'd recommend it to anyone struggling to create a little beauty in this world. Dylan humanizes that process.

Oh, and one thing more. I saw Dylan tour with Petty at the Erwin Center and then caught Dylan doing a rockin' grassroots gypsy show at Palmer Auditorium. This book helps explain the huge difference between those two experiences.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
leslie morgan
What fame brought Dylan is considered by him to be the antithesis of a blessing. Since all he wanted was the "white picket fence", telling the "spectral" world where to go. I sympathize with him in the way he had to suffer fools. But the simple, or not so simple truth is, that Dylan is a blessing, and was born one, to all of us, and is himself, the diametric opposite of a fool. There would be a vacant hole in this world if he did not exist, and his mind, heart, and soul have enriched us all intellectually, creativily, and spiritually. He is the role model for the role model for the best of us. In this book he has taken his abstractions out of seclusion and done the unprecendented, which is setting them on elemntary straight lines for us to follow, and it is fascinating. You come to know him intimately in a way he has never allowed the public to do before. But no mystery is cracked, and even less, is any mystique dispelled, but if you had any admiration for the man prior to reading the book, it is increased ten fold, and if you had never so much as heard one of his songs, you will gain admiration. This is a book that should be read by priests, politicians, generals, students, musicians, etc. It is a gift, as is the man himself, and I am grateful for all I have learned from him, as he is for all that he has learned from life. Thanks.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Insightful into the workings of the mind of a professional songwriter and stage performer. One of the most interesting, amusing and entertaining books I have ever read. It has been years since I have begun reading a book and realized that I was looking forward to the author's next book long before finishing the first. Mr. Dylan has a grasp of American English beyond that of most mortals. His observations of pre Civil War history will awaken one's interests in all things common to the American condition and spirit (pp. 83 through 86 - hardcover). The only fault found might be that Mr. Dylan's ideas flow too easily and too quickly to simply absorb in a single sitting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
short reviews
From his autobiography, it appears that I was really wrong about my conception of Bob Dylan. He wasn't a "protest singer" or "leader of progressive causes and disaffected youth", but rather a father, husband, well-read intellectual and musician. It's interesting to get Dylan's take on such golden oldies as Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison. His book is also peppered with references to many people with whom I'm unfamiliar, but this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of this candid autobiography
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
r hannah
I don't know if others have commented on this (I don't have time to read the nearly 300 reviews!), but I think it's amazing that Dylan goes on and on, page after page, with his detailed descriptions of New Orleans--the streets, the buildings, the people, the ambience--months before the city was flooded and forever changed. He even includes a conversation with some off-road hick merchant that veers onto the subject of flooding. To me, it's another example that Dylan does have a touch of a prophet in him, something he can't seem to escape from, despite his desire to. By the way, I disagree with one of the reviewers who claims that this book demystifies Dylan--to me, he's an even more mysterious than before. An unbelievably complex man who is always being hit with challenges on every level, many of them self-imposed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
candace jackson
Surprising, pure enjoyment...a fast, breezy read that makes you feel like you're drinking a very fine martini...delectible, heady, reviting,... with a sometimes frigtening, realistic yet inspiring message.

Bob paints a rich, colorful and complex self-portrait with hard-edged, heartfelt portrayals honoring the people who touched him along the way; friends, mentors, books, auhors, poets, musical styles, musicians, the big songs and even random moments where annoynomous people changed his life.

From beginning to end, the bottom line is; its all about folk music. He depicts himself as a person whose entire life was dedicated to folk music; a person who went straight to the source, to the bottom of the well time after time, to learn as much as he could about folk music, about the words, the songs, the song structures, the characters, the meanings...a person who wanted to learn as much as he could about life, history, politics, and this whole crazy world. Apparently, along the way, he developed a giant intellect and became a big thinker.

After reading the book, you'll probably understand why Bob does not consider himself a rebel, or counter-culture leader at all (the media created that). I came away with the impression that he is a classicst whose heart and soul resonates somewhere between the mid 1800's and late 50's.

With single-minded rigor, Bob got to the heart of folk music. By combining enormous dedication, introspection and honesty...he arrived at a new plane of awareness...something powerful and new emerged in his songs. He worked his ass off for it, lost it, found it and it seems even today, he keeps working his tail off for it.

I loved Bob's realism about life. For him it's hard, cold, mysterious and yet heartfelt with no airs, straight up in your face. Born and raised in the "iron range" of Minnesota, you come to understand how "steely" a guy he is.

Congratulations to Bob. He did it! He delivered a very exciting, in depth autobiography without prostituting himself and doing a "tell all." Quite brilliant. Bottom line, you, me and my twenty year old son and his friends, can learn a lot from this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
travis brown
A wonderful book! It reads like poetry. Dylan insists he is not a prophet, not a spokesman, not a visionary, but just some guy writing and singing songs. We, who grew up in the 60s and 70s, know that just isn't true. He may possibly be insane but he sees things more clearly than the rest of us. Much like many great painters have had poor eyesight, enabling them to see things more true than they are. A perfect example of Dylan's strange gift is a part where after pages of describing the musical advantages of using an "odd numerical system" (versus even numerical system) and diatonic scale as well as pentatonic scale in musical notation, he tells us he is not really good at math or reading music. He is and has always been a great story teller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Around our house, Dylan is nearly deified, sharing the honor with another Minnesotan native son - Prince. My husband, Canadian born, but Minnesota-raised, has to be reminded periodically that we can't listen to best of Dylan all day and night, every day and night. Still, his love of the Bard from Hibbing has spread to me and our four children as over the years we lived our lives to a soundtrack of Dylan crooning, until songs like "Sara" seemed to describe our own lives as much as his. Our kids love the stories our brother-in-law tells about arriving to teach Chemistry at Bard College in the early Sixties and seeing the teenage Bob Dylan sitting strumming his guitar on the steps of the gym everyday. So when CHRONICLES: Volume One arrived at our home, everyone, from Dad to our three grown sons to 14 year old Liesette, wanted to read it.

CHRONICLES is a beautiful book. And I mean that literally. It feels real and solid in your hand with wonderful thick pages of rag paper that looks hand torn like the books in Ivy League libraries. The text is real and solid too.

Dylan does not disappoint. His memoir is highly readable and engaging. The voice is rhythmic, descriptive and poetic as you'd expect from America's unofficial Poet Laureate. But there are surprises here too. Dylan has a broad grasp of politics and human interaction. His descriptions of famous people and places hold interest, but some of his most finely drawn characters are unknown, like the old timer Sun Pie who Dylan met in Louisiana.

The memoir begins in New York City when Dylan meets boxer Jack Dempsey just after signing with Columbia Records. Music aficionados will enjoy the richly detailed descriptions of people, places and events in musical history. But readers will also enjoy Dylan the voracious reader who informs and delights with his multilayered descriptions of literary works and the way they affected his life and thinking. Dylan's reading taste is diverse, from Balzac to Robert Graves' THE WHITE GODDESS to Tennessee Williams' plays and the Bible. His stories about his personal relationship with poet Archibald McLeish is worth the price of this book alone.

Readers will be surprised to learn that Dylan first began drawing art at the same table where he would later pen his first songs. His discussions of art will resonate with visual artists, especially his on the mark ode to Red Grooms.

CHRONICLES reveals the breadth of Dylan's taste and intellectual curiosity. He is refreshingly non-judgmental and classist. Wrestlers, Slim Pickens, Jean Genet's THE BALCONY, opera, Jack Dempsey and Picasso - Dylan takes it all in, filters it through his keen mind, and distills phrases that capture the contribution of each with an open-minded embrace that feels particularly American. America at its best.

The memoir jumps back in forth in time and place with some of the most fascinating stories set in Woodstock, Minnesota and New Orleans where Dylan illuminates the creative process with his description of the relationship between him and producer Daniel Lanois amid detailed descriptions of motorcycling across the Louisiana landscape.

With Chapter 5 "River of Ice," CHRONICLE ends where most memoirs begin, in Bobby Zimmerman's hometown of Hibbing in Northern Minnesota. At the end, Dylan places himself as a Minnesota son, among Roger Maris, Charles Lindberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis and Eddie Cochran, "Native sons - adventurers, prophets, writers and musicians. They were all from the North Country. Each one followed their own vision, didn't care what the pictures showed." Dylan writes that he felt like he was "one of them or all of them put together" in one of the most lyrical and insightful odes to the independent spirit that characterizes the North Country. The depth and originality of this memoir proves Dylan's roots remain firmly planted in Northern Minnesota.

CHRONICLES Volume One leaves the reader looking forward to Volumes Two and Three. Despite himself, Dylan continues to be the "voice of a generation." But now the generation he speaks for transcends his own and includes our twenty something and teenage children, as well as their Dad and me who still find lots to relate to in the words of the reluctant spokesman from the North Country.

It's good that the book is well-made and designed to last because I suspect that our children's children will be drawn to it when they reach adolescence, and again when they reflect on their lives in middle age, and it will speak to their children's generation as well.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The first of several projected volumes, CHRONICLES reads like expanded journal entries from various periods of Dylan's life. It's immensely enjoyable -- his reputation as a master wordsmith is amply demonstrated in these vignettes. It's all done with a wink -- you don't know whether to believe him or not, but it's thoroughly engaging, and in the end these sorts of things are all just impressions and versions anyway, right?

It's RASHOMON (the Kurosawa film), there is no one truth. In fact there isn't even one truth for one person, because each of us, and certainly Dylan, is always changing. So what we have here are recollections and reflections on the Dylans Then from the Dylan Now. If you don't expect anything but what Dylan Now chooses to tell, in his own time, you won't be disappointed.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
This book was written just how you would expect something from Dylan to be. It was full of banter that made no sense, one of stories that didn't pertain to anything, and cemented that Dylan was nothing more than a burnout.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
First off if you have even an inkling of interest to find out Bob Dylan's true life during his career then read this book. The story begins with Dylan during the beginning of his career and goes through the rough turmoil and all. The thoughts and ideas floating through Dylan's head throughout the book are amazing. Some of the ways he began to change his guitar playing style I have brought up to my friend that has been playing guitar for 7 yrs and it has changed his style of playing forever. (For the better) I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan. I have every single song that I can get my hands on. The way Dylan writes through the book starts out kind of dull and plain but as the story of his life intensifies the writing begins to intensify also.

My parents grew up with Bob Dylan and so I have gotten the fans and media side of Dylan's life. This book really explains the hardships and media attacks and all of the other turmoil Dylan went through. Dylan doesn't spend a lot of his time explaining on how he wrote or composed his huge hits, which you would expect him to. But Dylan did even better he wrote about the songs he spent weeks on in the studio and the people he worked with. You find out about things you would never hear from the media or fans that followed Dylan's words like the disciples of Jesus. To sum this review up, I say read this book if you have any interest about Dylan's true life during the 60s, 70s and into the 80s.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
raseel abdulaziz
Following the release of his finest trio of recordings since Blood on the Tracks comes this first volume of a memoir chronicling (mostly) his early days in NYC, learning his trade among the misfits and bohemians. Rich in detail, anecdotes, and cultural insights, Chronicles paints a compelling portrait of the artist as a young man, coming of age in an America where revolutionary change still seemed possible.

His tone is casual throughout, his writing style conversational. As others have noted, he makes it seem like anyone in the same circumstances might have come up with Hard Rain, It's All Right, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), or Subterranean Homesick Blues. False modesty? Maybe. But elsewhere he has admitted to being mystified by his own muse, so perhaps he really is no wiser than the rest of us.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
donny avery
This is one of the more exceptional books I've ever read. If it were not the actual life of the man, it could pass as brilliant fiction. Dylan clearly lives his life far from the travails of the popular culture he is so often named as a pillar of. He writes fluidly and beautifully of looking inside at the dark ironies of pop culture as if it were all held deep within a snow globe shaken by his very own strumming hand. After one chapter, it's easy to see why so many respected writers have so long considered Dylan to be one of their very own league (if not better.)

One need not know much about Dylan or appreciate his music to really enjoy this. If you are a fan, you'll be happy to see his prose style is not far removed from his lyric form. If you are an artist of any stripe, "Chronicles" is an inspiring tale of one very young man's blind leap into his art. If all this sounds like hype, please believe that it isn't. This book is a strikingly original, impossible to duplicate work of art depicting the life of a man who lived even beyond his own imagination.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
megan wilkinson
He writes this small book in his usual big way. It is a journey into Bob Dylan's life as only he could say.
His wife has gone upstairs to bed. While he sits with a friend writing a song.
How he writes about these simple things will bring you joy in just reading his life stories .
Part 2 is in the works. Then 3.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dani guerrato
Chronicles is a must have for Dylan fans and music lovers! I read this book in two days and completely enjoyed it. I found it to be humorous, honest and inspirational. A book you can relate to at times and lose yourself in. A musician's life is obviously not all glamour and glitz and it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. This book made me want to pick up a guitar and hit the road (and I am no musician). Dylan conveys his life as an understandable, humble, interesting journey anyone can relate to, but an extraordinary life nevertheless. I look forward to new music and sequels to the first book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
amy dupree of toil and blood." How different the world was in 1962. Mr. Dylan did not invent rock'n'roll hipness from talking too much, but from saying so little, and this impressionistic memoir is proof he's still not revealing too much. Bobby Vee, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Tiny Tim are not necessarily the first characters Mr. Dylan's audience associate with the legend, which leads many disappointed readers to assume that this is an attempt to obscure rather than to clarify. But so what? At this late date, a straightfoward memoir would cover some very well-known facts. Mr. Dylan has his biographers to set the story straight -- let's assume his own words still mean just what they say and that the created legend was a confusing mix of false starts and stops, confidence and insecurities, and extemporized recording sessions.

Why not? No one creates their own legend out of whole cloth -- it depends on the willing suspension of belief in his audience, and it's helped along by a publicity department that values Mr. Dylan's own unwillingness to open his mouth about what the words mean. That's what the lyrics are for in the first place.

Still, that doesn't mean that "Chronicles" isn't a put-on, a put-down or intentionally arcane. "Bob Dylan" is still his own best character. The book succeeds best in conveying the singer's own doubts about himself. Mr. Dylan's selective memory is certainly not a generation's collective one, and why should it be? The book reads like an overheard monologue, a man on the porch remembering bits and pieces of the past: this happened, oh yes, and then this. Mr. Dylan can be a sly dissembler, but there is truth in the telling. Are there great stories waiting in volume two? Probably not the ones his fans remember. Reading "Chronicles" is akin to discovering one's hero still puts his pants on one leg at a time -- disappointing, but what does one expect? Ambrose Bierce defines the imagination as "a warehouse of facts, with poet and liar in joint ownership." I'll bet Mr. Bierce never had anyone yell out "Judas!" after him, though.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rhonda lipscomb
Bob is awesome and so is the book. I've said this before in many of my reviews but this is true; Chronicles is a must. Bob's not from some alternate universe or some other planet either. He's just a man with a story to tell. Now, of course, he tells a real compelling one in a straight-forward manner, but it's "just the facts, mam." Which is not to say there isn't introspection, 'cause of course there is. What i mean is there's no mumbo jumbo. There's a great use of vocabulary with his typically off-beat metaphores, jokey stories and plain-spoken, hard earned observations about music, love and life- the whole ball of wax. It's tough for me not to go on and on. It's a great book and i look forward to all the coming volumes. Because of the manner in which it is written Bob could write many more volumes. You know what it is? He really knows what to leave in and what to leave out.

**** okay, it's years later and i have to ammend my review. Bob is vague about lots of stuff and it seems he chose not to tell the whole story of his life. Fine. It's his version of his life but it's not "just the facts, mam." He's too creative for that. At his best he's an excellent writer, telling us exciting and insightful versions of his life but let's notice (like i did in a more obvious manner with Keith Richards' autobiograph) Dylan can be rather disingenuous at times. And so that's what's great about Ray Davies' autobigraphy. Davies' isn't. He refered to it as "unauthorised", allowing the reader to see his sly nod and wink that said, "Hey, i know this is not the whole truth, but rather my truth." And the info Robert Shelton put into his recently re-issued Bob biog got me wondering about what Bob chose to leave in and out and why. All of that being said, i still love "Chronicles, Volume 1" and look forward to coming volumes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marty love
How could the first autobiographical "chronicle" from the most influential poet-singer-songwriter of the last century not get 5 stars? Although not at all typical of the genre (Dylan doesn't mention his home town of Hibbing, MN by name until the last few pages of the book, nor does he ever discuss his being brought up Jewish, or tell us much at all about his parents), he does manage to weave a rich and detailed tapestry of what it was like coming to New York City in search of Woody Guthrie around 1960, the great and ambitious un-washed phenomenon from the American Mid-West. Managing to weave his musical and literary influences into the slim pages of this book, he gives us an idiosyncratic, myopic look at the bohemian alleys of Greenwich Village, the upstairs green room of Gerde's Folk City, and of his careful and aloof wheeings and dealings with characters such as Dave Van Ronk, John Hammond, and Joan Baez. Dylan doesn't so much as tell us what we're looking for, but rather somehow paints the poetic and naked picture of what was it was like for him back in the day. An artist's refracted and selected memory of his musical and "legendary" past. Gotta be - 5 stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
In Chronicles Vol. 1, Dylan eschews formal autobiography in favour of recalling three periods of his life: his early singing days in New York and Minnesota, the making of his early 70s' ablum New Morning, and the creation of his heralded late-80's "comeback" album No Mercy with producer Daniel Lanois. Dylan writes in a poetic and personal style, reflecting on past loves and the frustrations bestowed by fame. The chapters are laced with tributes to his musical influences, especially artists like Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson. Dylan approaches the book with no axes to grind and few unkind words for his peers.

I've long admired Dylan's art, and this memoir confirms my suspicion that he's primarily a poet who employs music as a building block for his poems. Given that, it's hard to understand why fans and critics have sought to annoint him as a partisan political leader or a god.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
After nearly 45 years of evasiveness, few expected Dylan's autobiography to be forthcoming, or even readable. He had begun his career inventing stories about his early life, and had misled and toyed with interviewers throughout. His songs were presumed to be autobiographical, but were often so abstract and surreal that no real person could be seen. When he announced a multivolume autobiography, most people expected more of the same, something like the opaque, impressionistic hipster poem Tarantula. Instead, he has produced a clear, detailed, intensely honest and artistically challenging masterpiece of the memoir style. After all those years of carefully fabricating the fictional character of Bob Dylan, he finally opened the door and let us meet Bobby Zimmerman.

Journalists, obsessed fans, revolutionaries, and other such dangerous, unstable people pestered him mercilessly. His home was invaded, his family was stalked, and his garbage sifted and catalogued. He was defined first as the true guardian of the folk music tradition, then as the spokesman of a generation, and then as a prophet, even a messiah. When pressed to speak, he said that he was simply a "song and dance man ... a high wire artist." His few interviews were funny, oblique, and sometimes vicious putdowns of the generally clueless music press. He protected his privacy intensely, keeping his distance with intellectual misdirection worthy of Houdini.

Deep in Dylan's character is the obsession that his life not be forced into someone else's mold and his song lyrics suggest that we do the same:

"It is not he or she or them or it that you belong to."

"Don't trust me to show you beauty ... if you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself."

He bristled and angered at the demands of the public that he answer questions and reveal himself. In recent years, despite being on stage more than 100 times a year, he has come to be seen as permanently inscrutable, this generation's Garbo. Finally, in his own time, he decided to tell the back story and turned his creative talents to this new form of expression. He applies the same brilliant imagery, piercing reality, and evocative ideas that mark his songs to a narrative format, and at the same time reveals enough personal detail to satisfy any Dylanologist. It seems that when we stopped demanding anything of him, he freely and cheerfully began to answer all our questions - very zen-like.

Chronicles is structured like an Elmore Leonard novel. The scenes are dense with detail, flashbacks are expertly structured to explain the importance of key events, and his thought processes are followed with psychological subtlety and insight. The format of the book is to drop in on our hero Bobby Zimmerman at three widely-spaced moments, carefully describe the world outside his eyes, and then expand the context to include the surrounding forces and events. His attention to detail is Proustian, but unlike Proust, his details are interesting.

The book opens with him alone and broke, having just arrived in Manhattan. With a painter's eye he describes the scene and the people, and his early personal history is gradually introduced to explain the decisions he made. A second section focuses on the Woodstock period of withdrawal and creative desiccation. The third segment recounts the rebirth of inspiration, emphasizing his collaboration with Daniel Lanois in the recording of Oh Mercy. Any of a myriad of moments could have been used, and those who complain about the book bemoan those missing stories - his religious period, his marriage and his relationship with his children, drug and alcohol excesses - but Dylan could have chosen almost any of the vignettes of his life with the same result. This is, after all, Volume One. There is no reason to believe that he would hesitate to talk about any of those issues.

The biographical details are fascinating, but more intriguing are the many other doors opened during the narrative. He introduces a wide range of cultural influences (from Tiny Tim to Mae West) and fully explains his indebtedness to his musical and poetic progenitors - Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Little Richard, Robert Johnson, Bertold Brecht, Rimbaud, along with dozens of others. The music industry giant, John Hammond, said that Dylan was the latest in a long line of tradition, and Dylan would not disagree.

An added treat are thought digressions that introduce brightly colored characters and scenes that could live in "Mozambique," or "Desolation Row." A motorcycle ride outside New Orleans is highlighted by meeting Sun Pie, an ancient peasant philosopher who provokes Dylan to personal reassessment with the simple question, "Got everything you need?" Dylan, who still has great humor, answers, "Yeah, but I need some more."

Doubtless, Dylan is deep-down as baffled by the events of his life as are his admirers. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, he talked about his early masterpieces as if they fell out of the sky onto him. With a touch of fatalism or perhaps sadness he said, "I can't do that anymore." That is a bit of artistic false modesty - the songs on his last two albums are monumental and timeless, and the recent movie Masked and Anonymous is an underappreciated creative bombshell.

In Chronicles, Dylan invites us to sit alongside him on the psychedelic carnival ride of his life, and with the skill and compassion of a great artist makes those scenes real for us. He was always most upset and offended when described as anyone's "leader." He was simply doing his best to live and understand his life. If he is now giving us any advice, it is that we put as much effort into living and understanding our own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
michael siliski
Mr. Dylan starts the book with interesting looks at how he got started in NYC and the first 1/2 of the book is very interesting. He has a firm grasp of the english language and his poetry comes out in each paragraph. I really like his writing style which is aloof yet you know what he means. The middle part about the making of "Oh Mercy" is interesting but tedious. I did like his description of discussing lyrics with Bono! He returns to the beginning of his career at the end of the book to tie up some loose ends. I'm definitely a fan (and biased) but if you are interested in Dylan and have a few of his albums you will benefit from this interesting read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
claire h
No long time fan of Bob Dylan (which I am) would expect a soul-bearing "tell all" from him. This is, after all, a man who once denied the song "Sara" was about his wife. It is not, however, totally unrevealing; it just doesn't reveal what many want to hear.

I found it entertaining, engaging, and amusing...much like so many of his songs. He mentions many people in the book, but nowhere does he mention his wife or children by name. I am sure he would see that as an invasion of their privacy, and Bob Dylan is a very private man. So, if anyone is looking for all the "inside stories" of his long career, this is not the book for you. But I loved it and I think anyone who loves Dylan will too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It probably helps to be a Dylan fan to read this book, although at times it reads like fiction stories. Ray Davies attempted the same writing approach in his pseudo-autobiography ("X-Rays"), which is basically telling stories of specific incidents. Sure, Robert Shelton did a good job earlier with "No Direction Home," but it's different seeing it through Dylan's eyes. Hearing how he got dropped off at the George Washington bridge in January '61, and ended up in the Village, eating free burgers with Tiny Tim in the kitchen of Cafe Wha?, before Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen or Richard Pryor came on at night. Getting interviewed by some clean-cut publicity boy at Columbia Records for his bio, and basic life in the Village from his point of view, and told in a story-telling fashion. His '50s influences shaped his life to a much greater extent than some suspect, for example, how he loved Ricky Nelson, and even briefly played with, and became a fan of Bobby Vee. How he thought Johnny Rivers covered his songs as well as anyone, and how he once snuck into the audience of a Frank Sinatra Junior (!) concert, and enjoyed himself, because he was a fan of show tunes as well. There are stories from Bob about sitting in his kitchen drinking coffee with his mother and aunt, and watching Joe Tex on the Johnny Carson show on TV, and thinking if he was on, he probably wouldn't have much to say to Johnny either. In other words, just stories, and interesting stories at that, because no other biographer really ever had open access to inside Dylan's head. And of course, his negative feelings toward the counterculture and Dylan fanatics who hounded his family in Woodstock are here. As well as his dismay at constantly being referred to as a "generation's voice," or "political spokesman," such as when he received an honorary degree in '70 from Princeton. This book helps make sense as to why he released "Nashville Skyline" in '69 and "Self-Portrait" in '70. Of course, it may take Chronicles 2 or Chronicles 3 to help explain how he ever wrote "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" or "Subterranean Homesick Blues" or "Times they are a-Changing" or "Visions of Johanna."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
terry lokken
I love this book!!! From the first page to the last, I didn't want to put it down. Bob Dylan was not the protest and peace crusader that he was thought to be back in the 60's. In fact, he hated being called that. He was/is just a wonderful song writer and poet who wants to be left alone. He talks with such love for his wife and children. They are all that is important to him. After reading this book, I truly felt like I had sat down with him and had a conversation. A truly gifted man who wants to share his music with the world, but not to have it disected and turned into something to suit the current political or social views. He does not want the public to turn him into something he is not. If I could see him, I would give him a hug, and thank him for sharing his wonderful music with the world, but most of all........for being him.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
l keynote
Bob Dylan has to be one of the most intriguing characters around in the last 50 years. His music, personality, poignant sayings and lyrics, yet his shyness from getting too far involved in many things people expected him to pursue. This book only continues to add to the already huge halo of mystery surrounding the real person.
If you are looking for a chronological history of his professional career, this book will not help. You will get an insight (only a little one) to the personal life and thoughts as random as they may be.
From what I have written so far you may doubt my star rating of 5, but I assure you this book is great. Raw moments of Dylan's life presented in a way that only Bob must fully understand considering his erratic sense of logic. A very different read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Few would argue that Bob Dylan has one of the most unique and expressive voices in the American vernacular. His recent book Chronicles Volume One proves that his talent extends beyond song writing. It appears he is also a master of the literary autobiography as well (The NY Times Book Review called Chronicles one of the top 10 books of 2004). His story is both interesting and well written - when the words he uses are his own. On page 61, the last sentence before the section break reads, "You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of a song if you could get it right." The sound of these words from Dylan's pen moved me almost as much as the first time I read them, in Ernest Hemingway's `The Snows of Kilimanjaro.' In that short story, Papa wrote "There wasn't time, of course, although it seemed as though it telescoped so that you might put it all into one paragraph if you could get it right." Mr. Dylan should be reminded that a paragraph can only be right if the words you put into it are your own. Next time, he ought to cite his source.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Skipping all over the place, definitely not a chronological account of Dylan's rise, but more of a stream of consciousness series of the highlights, lowlights, or significant moments in the life of a true artist. Chronicles volume 1 is accessible and an interesting read to anyone who loves to read, the flow of words very easy. They just pull you along. I for one wasn't sure how good a writer Dylan is, but he's pretty good. I recommend this book to all Dylan fans, and anyone who likes to read a good autobiography.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
It's no surprise that this book is not written in the usual autobiography fashion. That's Dylan for ya. There's some great inside information and stories here for us Dylan fans but it's a bit disjointed. It doesn't follow a chronological order at all, this leaves you wondering when some of the events and stories took place. Still, if you're a Dylan fan you better read it, there's a few interesting things in here we haven't heard about before.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book is rich with references and lesson in American history and pop culture and literature. Bob Dylan may not be formally educated, but his depth of knowledge is fascinating. From this book I learned that Bob Dylan is a down-to-earth man who, during his life and career, just wanted to play his music. Nothing more, nothing less. I also learned that Spike Lee's father was a professional bass player.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
shehzeen misbah
I found it hard to read at times but overall it was interesting to read the mind of a genius. If you have heard and read everything bob dylan has recorded, you will get the songs and albums he talks about, and the people he talks about.But if you only know him through certain albums like "blonde on blonde" or "blood on the tracks" you'll be clueless as to what he is talking about.

Like me, I really wish he had talked about more about the blonde on blonde album and who were the inspirations for songs like "I Want You" or "Just Like a Woman." I loved the description of Joan Baez which only makes you wonder why they didn't tie the knot.

So if you are open to reading anything that has to do with music, read this!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
teresa greenlees
Ok let me put a few things straight. From what i can gather from reading this book Bob had NO intention of showing much of his personal life to the outside world, either from media reporting during his career, or in this book. This book is a fascinating view of the outside world by Dylan, not the other way around. The way he manipualtes the outside world's views on him is amazing, people still want what he won't give them, and i'm sure he intends to keep it that way.

This book gives numerous intricate tales of his youth and career, not your usual 'bob was born on so and so, he started recording at blah blah blah'. He gives detailed acounts of his meetings with some of the most prominent producers and artists, describing what occured at these meetings, but from a very personal view.

Those looking for an autobiography will be dissapointed, those who are looking for a different and very individual viewpoint from the man who wrote dozens of songs that defined many generations will be pleased. The book would also serve as a brilliant gateway to finding out about some of the greatest blues and folk musicians, a brilliant way to start an interest in either of these genres.

May you stay forever young Bob!

(It's all about the music, and it seems many of you have forgotten that)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amr reda
I was afraid that this might be too cryptic on the one hand, or simplistically "ghost-written" on the other. Thankfully, it is neither. It is straight from the heart autobiography in Dylan's own voice. I found the recollections about his father and mother particularly moving, and they gave me a lot of insights into how Dylan struggled and eventually succeded in bringing his genius to light. Dylan "the legend" is revealed as very human after all, and all the more fascinating and inspiring for that reason.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vanessa maldonado
I don't like how people review this book (and too many others around here) based on an excerpt in a magazine (well, at least they read SOMETHING instead of reviewing it based on whether or not they like the author the way people do with books by Ann Coulter and other political types). No one needs your thoughts on an excerpt that they can read for themselves by visiting Dylan's website.

I bought this book the day it hit the shelves, and read it in one sitting. How could I not? I'm a Dylan addict. If you're a Dylan fan, you should enjoy his remembrances of his early years in New York and of his alarm at being annointed the guru of the whole anti-establishment movement of the 60s. Dylan skips around through his life, so this is not an autobiography by any means. It's almost a self-interview. If you're looking for his life story, you're better off with a book by Clinton Heylin, Robert Shelton, or even Bob Spitz. I look forward to future volumes of "Chronicles."

I'm rather disappointed that the audio version of this book is read by Sean Penn! I like Sean Penn, but imagine what a pleasure it would be to hear Dylan read this himself.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Chronicles Vol. I reveals very little about Bob Dylan's inner-workings. After years of being tight-lipped about his music and life, the book offers little that is fresh or new, with one exception. Dylan creates a vivid early portrait of New York City's early folk music scene, that allows the reader one glimpse into Dylan's mindset in that time as he interacts with the key musicians of that time. However, the rest of the book doesn't follow that path. In fact, Dylan skips time periods and omits huge periods of his life. He never even mentions his wife's name. He reveals hardly anything about the creation of what are considered his masterworks. In all, the book left me unsatisfied.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Chronicles reads like an interview, where Bob Dylan resonds in writing to the questions: "Who were your influences and friends when you were starting out? What were you thinking, and what have you been reading?" His use of imagery is as strong as ever. He leaves the time lines, chronologies, and picture sections for other books. The structure is non-linear as he tends to free associate. The vignettes and details that he includes make this a joy to read. It's like he's talking straight to you when you've got a lot of time to kill, like going for a drive cross country, just the two of you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amr reda
It's such a treat to hear Dylan tell his story, finally. Yes, it's not chronological; but sandwiching a 1987 Dylan section between 1960's Bob sections adds a poignancy to the telling. His wide-eyed eagerness and musical hunger in his early days comes through vividly, he really captures that exciting point in his life. His late-60's chapter brought home to me the desperation he felt at the stifling needs of his fans and the media. I always thought of him as a grump and crank, unhelpful in interviews, deliberately evasive. But hearing about how relentlessly he was tracked by people (who needed him to be their messiah and leader) clarified why he was so desperate to keep his life apart from others' image of him. So it's startling to find him at a creative low point in 1987, trying to find a new way to approach his music and make it fresh to him again. His frankness about this time in his life is moving, and his humility and praise of other greats in this section was a nice surprise. I thought his description of New Orleans and the Louisiana countryside was the most beautiful part of the book, very poetic and thoughtful. I only came out of my reader's trance - and there is a sense of trance-like relating in his telling - when he was trying to describe the new playing style he discovered in this section. That part was tedious to me. Finally, he ends the book by going back to the early 60's, as he's about to hit it big on the folk scene. For me, ordering the chapters in this way gave the whole story a resonance and grace. I really look forward to volume two.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
anthony paul
Bob Dylan, a songwriter often labeled as the greatest Lyricist of the 20th century, has been broadcasts as a wandering icon for a generation of junkies. In his Autobiography Chronicles Volume 1, he explains how different his real life was from the one portrayed by the mass media. He tells of his disdain for the press and their misrepresentation of him as a spokesman for the hippie generation. He tells in his autobiography that during his most successful years he was entirely pre occupied with his family and hid from his fame. Even his description of himself seems directionless. However, his story offers a few invaluable virtues that make him great.

Though Dylan's lasting contribution will undoubtedly be his soulful and somewhat abstract lyrics, the inspiration that a reader can glean from Chronicles is his independent spirit. Every word of his autobiography says that he is his own man. He carries himself without regard to anyone's approval. He is living for himself and his family and everyone else can take a hike.

During parts of my listen I found myself walking more independently with a new level of confidence and inner strength. Though Dylan might sicken with the thought of using his life as an example for the "collegiate,�? this is a story containing some valuable insight into how an unambitious traveler tapped into his true self. Dylan tells as if he knew that his break would come. Its as if he felt that it were his destiny and he had a sense of it from the beginning. He saw his dream, he felt a connection to the music he played, and he expressed his genius liberally.

Dylan rambles often throughout his narrative. Some of his story bored me. His life in many ways seemed anti-climatic. Maybe that was the point. His life was directionless and free in the same way that he sang about it. He cuts out big chunks of his life, which seems to be the most interesting part of his music career. He is somehow disappointingly dull in comparison to the public perception (which painted him as epic).

Despite the character flaws, boring ramblings, and scattered storyline, Dylan's Chronicles provides value for readers who feel that they have a life mission and they hear it calling them. Its an interesting read/listen but lacks a lot of the virtues that I look to imitate from some of history's more philanthropic heroes.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
melissa weatherwax
The supreme irony of this book, and maybe of the 60's, is that while the world was on fire, the Beatles were in India, and the counterculture was screaming for its leader to come out and tell them how to live, Bob Dylan was dreaming of a 9-5, of coming home to a little house with a dog and a white picket fence.

Dylan's virtually unsurpassed talent for summing up a person, a day, a city, or a year in a single line is on full display here. He writes with searing economy and the grace of a gifted but weathered poet turned to prose. Sentences open up like flowers; like his best songs, most of the book seems exactly right, and comes off as though it has always been there, waiting for you to find.

The book is like a secret window into a time much mythologized and little understood. With Joyce Johnson's Door Wide Open, the out of print Strawberry Statement, Frances Fitzgerald's Fire in the Lake, and Robert McNamara's film The Fog of War, Dylan's book sheds real light on the end of an America everyone thinks they know. Like his music, the book is a gift.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
maggie abeyta
Have you ever had a really good conversation with someone, where nothing is really accomplished or concluded or decided, but you walk away with a sense of satisfaction anyway? Chronicles is satisfying in much the same way. It is an impression, not a chronology. It is a glimpse, a snapshot, not a tedious explanation. Chronicles is a rocking chair approach to telling a story more than it is a statement of fact or an attempt to persuade or justify, or validate. Everything you need to know about the man IS in the book, if you will let yourself relax and enjoy the story. If you are impatient, you probably will not get it, or you will be frustrated because you will think that you have been cheated. But if you use your imagination and put yourself in the pages with him, you will be rewarded in the end, ten-fold. When you finish the book, you will be satisfied. I was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
johanna dieterich
The man's mind is fertile and he just keeps moving from his youth to his middle age and back again; through friendships both musical and non-musical; through places; through remembered images and ideas; through books; through heroes of song. He lays it all out in an off-the-cuff feeling yet easy to understand writing style. His honesty and forthrightness about who he is and how he got to be that way is surprising and spiritually uplifting; his generosity and kind words toward nearly everyone mentioned in the book is an antidote to our cynical age. He even explains why you couldn't recognize what songs he was singing when you heard him play live-- even when it was one of your favorites. You won't be able to put it down.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stacy davidowitz
This is not the place to go if you want a full, informative biographical account of Dylans life, but it is an excellent account of a few periods in his life. It is written in his unique style and gives an insight into some of his recording and early years in new york. I was only disappointed as I was expecting an autobiography, but once you get past that there is plenty to interest most Dylan fans.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vivek tulsidas
This book is what you'd expect from one of the greatest writers of modern times. But more. More than his songs ever did, this book provides a fairly deep understanding of Dylan. The book leaves you anxiously awaiting volume 2.

One could never do it justice by commenting on the book piecemeal.

If you liked his songs, you'll love his book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
There seem to be many people who won't be satisfied until they know everything about this guy. The trivia of his life is not what makes him unique. It only serves our perverse need to make him seem more like us. Do we really need to know the details of his motor cycle accident, the names of his wives, his divorce, what he eats? These types of questions seem to be the equivalent of what his favorite color is. The same type of check list that is applied to every available celebrity on a weekly basis.

I am more than willing to accept that what Dylan chooses to write about in this remarkable book are the people, experiences, and influences that are important to him. Personally, I don't find him to be as obtuse and elusive as many others seem to. I see him as a man who is more than willing to expain what he feels confident to explain. After all, how much are we willing or able to explain about ourselves?

Dylan's life isn't mysterious. ALL our lives are mysterious; maybe he's just more aware of that than the rest of us.

What I did find most compellng were the parts of the book where he was writing about his music. When you understand the laser- like focus he brought to his craft, the way he ate, breathed and slept music, the way he absorbed everything that crossed his path, it's not a big leap to see how his songs turned out the way they did. As some one said; the most creative artist is the one who adapts the greatest number of influences. Without being explicit about his early song writing, he reveals so much that the individual song titles are almost unnecessary. The section where he talks about songs coming to him, some fully formed, like they were floating toward him gently down stream was facinating. No wonder he doesn't explain what they mean: he's says that songwriting is like trying to make dreams real. Like dreams, he probably can't explain them any better than we can. Like dreams, they're open to interpretation.

There is no doubt that Dylan is a muscial genius. He is the ultimate real deal, and there are't many of them. I doubt he's a genius at personal relationships, mathematics, or keeping track of his keys, though. It turns out he's no slouch at narrative, but that shouldn't be too surprising.

As far as I'm concerned, I found the book totally fascinating, easy to read, and completley engaging. If his next two installments are only about music and song writing, I will be more than satisfied. I don't need to know what he does in his time off. I don't need him to be ordinary. Why should he be?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chris hill
It's a great light read for anyone with knowledge about Dylan I think someone who knows nothing about Dylan or the 60s would have trouble making much of this book I found having some background knowledge helped bring order to Dylan's random, shifting paragraphs. His style and name-dropping take a little getting used to but I loved it. My biggest complaint is that it's a few random Polaroids found in a shoebox rather than a biography, but that's what makes Dylan, Dylan.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
prabhakar pundir
I'll admit that I'm going to be biased about this review, because I am an imense Bob Dylan fan. However, I think anyone interested in Dylan should read this book and hear what he says about himself. So much of what he has told "us" about his life was somehow skewed, that even this little (VERY little) sliver of the truth (I hope it is the truth at least) is great for fans.

Of course, when my brother came to me asking me what book I thought was the best to read about Bob Dylan, I told him probably not this one. There are other books that have more information, which, for people who are going to only read one book about Bob Dylan, would probably be better off reading.

However, anyone who considers himself a Dylan fan should read his autobiography, no?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Before reading this book, I ran across an excerpt in "Newsweek". The excerpt is from chapter 3 where Dylan writes about newspapers publishing his address in the paper and all types of people showing up at his door. He writes about how the public perceived him as the "Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest", etc. Dylan denies all of this.

I feel that Dylan is trying to convey to us that it's all about the music.

We learn how he came to be known as "Bob Dylan". He writes about authors he read: Ovid, Rousseau and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

He lists musical influences (and there are many): Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams and Robert Johnson to name a few.

I recommend this book if you are interested in Dylan and/or music.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah roy
Many reviewers have said many different things, he didn't do this or that but basically this book is really about songwriting if you were wondering about the mysteries, he even tells you the break down of music, his formula I didn't quite get but I do know Jerry Garcia knows of this formula and singing method, it's complex to figure out but here he lays it down and is now possible to figure out, Dylan even breaks down the folk process with the Johnny Cash song "Long Black Veil" which is Johnny Cash's version of another well known folk song at this point I'm forgetting the title but let's say "Tom Dooley" for arguements sake, anyway a priceless lesson and a lesson worth the book's price. Also I always wondered where his song inspiration came from because it wasn't exactly like Woody Guthrie's although he may have had his image and maybe somewhat of a similar maybe only in instruementation, anyway he explains where it comes from in his book and it does make sense when he explains it, the songs from the writer of mack the knife which makes sense, dylan's songs for the most part do make great theater which is why he can still sing em' with convinction almost 40 years after the fact with his older/1st songs, at times he does wonder why off and does get very eccentric, very eccentric especially when he speaks of spirits and new orleans where it takes a long time to die because the air is so think there, it's an interesting read, maybe the tension doesn't exist to keep turning pages but it's sort of like shakespeare writing his memoirs of othello.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tom leary
I'm not an avid reader, but I read this book until I finished it during my spare time and am now opening it randomly and reading whatever I open to. It's fun to hear his take on his view of things vs the views of the rest of the world. He seems quite normal (for one who grew up in the 40's/50's) in his approaches to non-musical life as opposed to the "my water's not wet enough/I only eat purple m&m's/I don't want to bother with the 'little' people" mindset of many of his contemporaries (and of course Prima Donna's of any age).
What I really liked were the lenghy discussions of music and musical techniques which he felt greatly aided his expression. I wish I could understand them all but they are intriguing just the same.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As I read this autobiography, I imagined myself coming face to face with this extraordinary, almost mythological figure as he describes the somewhat unremarkable experiences of his youth. I grew up on the poetry, music and mystery of Bob Dylan, and I am grateful to him for giving me a glimpse, through this book, into his life. It's an entertaining, well written, and thoughtful read. I look forward to the next volume.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Volumes and volumes can be written about Bob Dylan, but to get into his mind and to know what and who mattered to him and in what ways, only he can provide that, which he does here. The writer of so many spectacular lyrics that can mightily stand on their own as poems even if he doesn't call himself a poet, Bob is also quite adept at prose, as brilliant and candid and enigmatic as he can be in his interviews. This is his own feature length interview, and what a book it is! I can't wait for the next volumes to come out, and I hope there are many!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bev morrow
1st off, let me concur with those of you who read it - how can anyone put their thoughts to paper after only having read EXCERPTS. Geesh, these are the people Bob at whom Bob directs his anger!

OK, now then, Bob Dylan has delivered, in my mind, some of the best writing in his 5-decade career. This memoir flows with some of the most stylish metaphors and anecdtoes I have ever read. The descriptions are so vivid and compelling, from Roy Orbison as someone who sang "like a professional criminal", to Davd Crosby as someone who was flirting with death even "back then", (1970), to his belief that if Bono had come to America at the turn of the century, he would have been a cop, Dylan draws pictures in the same Piccasoesque fashion in which he writes songs. The detail in his memory is striking and surprising, as even he has mentioned. This only adds to the pictures he creates, and it all seems so effortless. Furthermore, the memoir is peppered with one-liners that could easily have ended up on a lyric sheet, and still might knowing bob's propensity to search previous writings for help with song lyrics ;-).

Bob is a very well read person, as has always been suggested in his lyrics. But here we learn in great detail what it is that he has read. And he treats many actual living beings he has met throughout his travles as characters in the books he has read - Gorgeous George, Archibald MacLeish, Jack Dempsey, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Daniel Lanois, Aaron Neville, Woody Guthrie, Izzy Young (one of my favs!) - the list goes on & on, capped off by perhaps the most lucid character in Bob's memory, The Village circa early 1960s.

Grammatically, Bob needs some work. But I look at it more as a conversation, matter of fact. Bob is writing as if he were just sitting around talking to us. The dangling participle here & there, meshed with a run-on sentence might drive the editor crazy, but this is his way of retelling the stories, and it makes us, the reader, feel more relaxed, really inside and on top of what he is saying.

If vols. 2 & 3 are an actuality, we have much to look forward to and much to be thankful for. Critics may desire more gossip, more juice, like his divorces, conversion to Christianity, change to electric music, etc. But Bob should just keep speaking what is on his mind. This memoir could not have turned out any better, even if he wanted us to "get juiced in it."
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
scary lee
I had always wondered about the gal on the cover of Dylan's second album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan." I had read elsewhere that she was Dylan's girlfriend soon after arriving in NYC. Reading "Chronicles I," you get Dylan's take on Suze Rotolo, the girl on the cover, and her role in his life. Dylan gives you a small sense of her as a love interest, a muse, a girl of the sixties. More importantly, Chronicles offers a jumbled, messy, non-chronological, but insightful view of Dylan's life, the trappings of fame, and his attempts to recoil from expectations by the adoring fans. The chapters detailing his earlier periods seem more interesting probably because of our greater familiarity with the music he released then. I found it useful to have a listen to the album Oh Mercy! while reading the chapter devoted to putting the album together in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois.

Overall, the book is engrossing and difficult to put down. So many of the tales are spun sparsely and on inconsequential subjects in magical ways. A must-read for any Dylan aficionado.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I listened to the audiobook version read by Sean Penn. I "couldn't put it down". Dylan's dedication to and love of music struck me right off. Serving the song. He paints strong images, the scene and vibe in New York when he was starting out performing, fame rolling in like a silent steamroller, and the energy spent to protect his family's private life, then later in his career, recording in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois. Dylan comes across as a loving, imperfect person. His writing is direct, subtle, poetic and descriptive. He illuminates aspects of his creative process and shares impressions of his journey while still leaving the reader some mystery.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
billie rain
I bought this book for my hsuband for Christmas and he loved it! For any Bob Dylan fan, it gives a personal experience with the man himself. My husband commented that it was not at all what he expected and he found a side of Bob he hadn't known existed. A good book for a good price.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
debbie maclin
.Sorry Bob, but I expected so much more - so much of this book reads like a novel that it comes off insincere. Excrutiating detail about things unimportant (down to the type of wood a table is made of and the texture and color of the curtains in a friend's apartment - when he was in his 20's!) There is no depth to this book, as others have stated, lots of name dropping with no really relevant stories to tell - about himself or anyone else. I found it shallow, tedious and boring, when it could have been SO much more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pedro freitas
I would only recommend this to someone, who already is a fan of Dylan. I repeat: if you want to learn about Bob Dylan, start with a biography, perhaps Robert Shelton's No Direction Home. That being said, I think that this is a wonderful book. I know the basic structure of Dylan's public life, so for me, the book reads smoothly and does in fact have insight. If you aren't familiar with parts of his life, the book does jump around chronologically, so that may become, at times, confusing. Give it a thorough read, though, and I can guarantee that you will come away satisfied and with more respect for Dylan the person, as well as Dylan the artist.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
debbi mack
I came here to post a glowing review for this book only to discover that most of the other reviewers have already said it better than I could. This is a GREAT book for any Dylan fan. It shows you a Bob Dylan we never saw in the press these last 40 or so years. I highly recommend it if you like Dylan. I found this book a real delight.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I found Chronicles to be a very quality autobiography. With many insightful opinions and facts about his life it is a must read for close followers of Dylan's life. There are times when Dylan sort of rambles on about certain subjects that I was not so interested in, but I feel that is almost necessary in order to see more of Dylan's personality. This is definitly Dylan's most up to date look back at his life. The one downfall I could say is that this doesn't seem to me to be a good first look at Dylan so a person new to learning about Bob Dylan might want to look elsewhere.
Stan Chismark
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This is an unveven book that provides glimpses of Dylan's development and some of his creative struggles. It is more of an early draft than a finished work.

The Dylan that emerges in this book is a conservative midwestener (I am placing Minnessota in the Midwest). His fans may want him to be a radical and their savior but he wants to be left alone with his family and his music. This is not bad, just the way he sees himself. The book shows some of the sources of his writing and music, but what is unexplained is whether he has any musical training. The book jumps from 1960 when Dylan is struggling in New York to some time in the late 60's or early 70's when he is suddenly married and worries about fans camping out in his yard. Later it goes back to his earlier days. The time jumps seem pointless. Althoug Dylan's wife appears in the book we never learn how they met or what she does. Maybe this is midwestern reticence.

I agree the chapter on the New Orleans recording session went on a long time but I think he was trying to show the evolution of a recording. I am not a musician and much of it was lost on me.

I listened to an audio book version narrated by Nick Lanier. He did a good job.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I am one of those for whom the poetry of Bob Dylan was a major influence during the formative sixties. From "Look out, kid/ they keep it all hid" to the haunting "dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free/silhouetted by the sea", his outlook penetrated the cells of my brain.

So I was a little shocked to read on the back page of a recent New Yorker these words from Dylan's autobiographical Chronicles: "The world was absurd.... I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation I was supposed to be the voice of." I thought, how arrogant. You may not have wanted to be the voice of our generation, but don't tell me you had little in common with us -- if that is so, then your songs were lies, and I know they were not.

In spite of this predisposition, when my sister sent me a copy of Dylan's book for my birthday, and a lady friend picked it up before I did and pronounced it good, I felt compelled to have a look at it. What I found there was a remarkable and unexpected landscape, one in which that quote from the New Yorker not only fits but makes perfect sense.

Who was Bob Dylan? Poet? Philosopher? Minstrel? Revolutionary? This book makes the answer very clear. Dylan was a musician, pure and simple. He may have been a poet as well, and even a revolutionary, but that was all secondary to and in the service of his music.

He did not choose to be the Designated Spokesman for the epoch in which I came of age. That role was thrust upon him by others, and he never accepted it for one minute. His whole life was music, folk music first and foremost, and then whatever original elements he could contribute to that foundation. The lyrics he wrote were important, to be sure, but to him they must have been just another way of making music. It was all about the song, the beauty of the song, finding a way to make the song live and breathe and show its inner light.

Chronicles is not structured like any ordinary autobiography. At one point Dylan injures his guitar-playing hand severely, but does not tell us how. The chapters do not follow a strict chronology, and the year in which any event occurs can often only be guessed at.

In spite of these gaps, the book is a deft and illuminating self-portrait. It is composed in the style of a Cubist painting, with multiple perspectives superimposed over one another, but it tells a very clear and coherent tale. Almost all the pieces of the puzzle can be found at one point or another: childhood, family life, departure from home, early influences, first record contract, and so on.

The only major gap, in fact, is precisely the period of his meteoric rise to fame. That whole decade is missing from these chronicles. It is like a black hole, whose existence we know of here only by what came before and after it.

Dylan's success became his curse. The quiet family life he craved was systematically undercut by the demands of a hungry cultural current knocking knocking at his door. His whole life became a quest to escape the image he had become. The absence of those years from this book is just another emphatic expression of his rejection of that role.

Dylan's writing style is fresh and vigorous, with sparkling diction and lively sentence structure. His memory is acute, his descriptions of faces, furniture, conversations rich and vivid.

What Chronicles gives us is the life of a musician, one who happened to have the misfortune to be cast in the lead role in a play for which he did not audition. It is a book that will stand the test of time as surely as will Dylan's music.

Its ultimate magnitude, it is too soon to judge. Provocatively, however, this work is entitled Chronicles, Volume I. Perhaps Volume II will give us those years so conspicuously missing here.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
greg lane
"And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you....."

These lines from Tangled Up in Blue go through my mind every time I pick up this marvellous book. Dylan engages the reader as though it's a private conversation, dropping in humerous comments along the way that aptly sum up the people or situations he is talking about. The anecdotal style makes it a rivetting read.

I was in a book shop the other day and overheard a woman asking the sales person which of the books they had about Dylan she could buy as a present for her husband. I had to speak up and tell her to get this one. Book Of The Year for me.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ginny valentine
Dylan has through the years of fame kept his inspiration and personal life well veiled. If you were hoping that would change with this book, you'll be disappointed. Dylan doesn't reveal his secrets in Chronicles, Vol. 1. Personally, being quite literally, a lifelong Dylan lover I never expected some great revelation from him in this book. It rambles from subject to subject, with small things connecting each idea. If you love Dylan, with all his mystery intact, you'll love the book. If you want a emotional life story, you're outa luck.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I'm a big fan of Dylan's and have most of his albums. I got obviously curious about this book, especially since Tarantula is rubbish. The praise for Chronicles is the most extensive I ever read in the beginning of a book. The publishers are set out to make money, the name sells, the newspapers go along for the ride... the usual...
The book: It's quite good, Dylan writes well, but he's not a writer. He's one of the most influential songwriters of the century, an icon, yes, he's all that. This book is, of course, interesting for fans and it has its moments. But, if it was written by John Smith it would vanish in a twinkling of an eye. What I mean is, if you take away the mystique that surrounded Dylan for so many years, and the mark he made on the music of this century, the book loses 99% of its value.
It's a nice memoir and he's honest throughout, but I really don't know if I'll be that interested to read volume II. The praise the book got is simply absurd. It should have got half of it. It leads the potential reader to a misconception of the book itself. It's quite interesting that this type of attitude is out of character with Dylan's work. Now this book is blasted into the stratosphere, I should like to know what he has to say. He said it was boring to write and he did it on request from Simon and Schuster. Did he ever make an album on request? Come on... like Dylan says this is the New Dark Ages... I just hope he doesn't become a part of it. 3 stars because it's Christmas... 2 would be fairer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
davey morrison dillard
I recently purchased this book in order and I am very happy for that. Bob says very little about intimate relations, except to express his desire to protect his wife and family from the gaze of publicity, and to complain of the constant invasion of privacy.

Many chapters are tributes to his musical influences, especially artists like Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson. Dylan approaches the book with no axes to grind and few unkind words for his peers.

I would only recommend this to someone, who already is a fan of Dylan.

I also highly recommend this book, Five stars "Sex and the perfect lover by Mabel Iam.. I am pretty impressed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
helen kempster
In a word, Evocative; a very compelling read, hardly a hint of the self-consciousness you might expect in his prose, seemingly honest but also guarded. You won't get any of your questions answered - this is as far from a tell-all book as you can get. Read it for the lovely language and some fleeting glimpses into the man - almost makes up for all those disappointing concerts.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
"Lou Levy, top man of Leeds Music Publishing company, took me up in a taxi to the Pythian Temple on West 70th Street to show me the pocket sized recording studio where Bill Haley and His Comets had recorded 'Rock Around the Clock.'"

Now I ask you: Of all the ways you might have imagined that Bob Dylan would begin his memoirs, would you have dreamed...that?

If you're like me, you'd expect something more cryptic ("The ragman draws circles") or political ("How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?") or lyrical ("Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed"). But the lead of a magazine profile? No way.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the surprises that Dylan delivers in what's billed as the first in a series of memoirs. But "surprises" may not be the right word --- "put-ons" may be more like it.

In the beginning of his career, when Bob Zimmerman, son of a Minnesota storeowner, morphed into a Woody Guthrie clone, he was the very embodiment of passionate liberalism and poetic truth --- Tom Paine meets Rimbaud. Well-respected books testify to his ambition, his cruelty to friends and colleagues, his contempt for the press.

You'll find none of that here.

This Dylan is a guy who had "come from a long ways off and had started from a long ways down." He had thought for a time of going to West Point. He had no great commitment to social justice or nuclear disarmament. Later, he would dream of a house with a white picket fence.

Maybe Dylan really believed this stuff way back then. Or, more possibly, believes it now and has simply backdated his opinions. This reader's not buying it. Artists who spend a lifetime covering their tracks tend to continue to obscure them. And artists who don't have a compelling reason to tell all rarely do.

So Dylan meanders through his early days in New York, presenting charming but unrevealing portraits of the people he meets along the way, the books he reads, the music business circa 1962. "I had no ambitions to stir things up." Right. Snore.

But this writing has a purpose --- it loosens Dylan up. Unlike a Real Writer, who writes and cuts and rewrites and cuts, Dylan writes and writes, saving every precious word. And, slowly, he writes himself into the book's true subject, which is music: how you make it, where it comes from, what you do when the magic's not in your fingertips anymore.

"A song is like a dream," he writes, "and you try and make it come true." Now he's getting somewhere, you think, and then, suddenly, you hit a rich vein --- the 60-page story of making a record in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois as the producer. Bono had recommended Lanois, and Dylan finds him a good collaborator ("He wanted to dive in and go deep. He wanted to marry a mermaid") but their work together doesn't get off to a great start ("The tune was gaining weight by the minute and none of its clothes were fitting").

The process of creation --- that's a safe place for Dylan, and suddenly he's free to write. And joke. Other people enter, and they have their say. The book breathes. And the reader leans in, enchanted by the tale.

Books need editors as surely as musicians need producers. But who would dare to edit Bob Dylan? Who would tell the boss, "We're going to delay this baby yet another year because I want Bob to rewrite"? No, that doesn't happen. It's a good thing that Dylan is so magnificently gifted that the last half of his book makes us forget the first.

--- Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I disagree with most reviews so far, I think this effort from Dylan could have come out circa 1966 and would have sat comfortably with his albums of the time.

On Joan Baez 'she was like Cleopatra living in an Italian palace'.Stunning stuff and it is filled with his brilliant manipulation of language.

At the time of writing this a reviewer from the Daily Telegraph (U.K)admits that at no time has he read an autobiography of this high quality by anybody.

As for the suggestion that, he Dylan should have had the book ghosted is way of the Plimsole line.

Dylan has once again thrown down the gauntlet to his contemparies.

He does not raise standards ,he sets them.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Imagine you are giving Bob Dylan a ride to the airport, a 2 hour journey. You are both tired, but he feels like talking. Snippets of memory and occassional confessions, sometimes saying things you don't really mean, but out they come, sometimes allowing you to get to other things you do mean. Long pauses, then more stories.

There is no writing here, and certainly no editing. This was done into a tape recorder and transcribed intact, and all of the grammatical mistakes and sentence fragments and malapropisms are kept, perhaps because the editor didn't know if this was "the poet Bob Dylan" talking, or just a [pun intended] ramblin' man.

The opening sentences of each section start with sophmoric and trite imagery, like a bad detective novel: "The mists of the morning came out quietly..." "Rain glistened on the street..."

The bulk of the book is about his desire to escape fame and the self-absorbed counter-culture agin hippies who wanted him to be their leader. He manufactured identities to throw them off. Is this more of the same? Are we to believe that Bobby Vee was his soul-brother? That "like a knife through cheese" is one of the lyrics he is most proud of?

I found myself engaged but annoyed with the book-on-tape version with Sean Penn's tobacco-ravaged voice doing the narration. NIce reading But disappointed, and just a little suspecting that Mr. Dylan is still lying and thinking us a mass of boobs, and calling it artistic license.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Dylan's narrative style is lucid, compelling, insightful, & humorous, though mostly, it is sheer poetry. This book is a rich mine loaded with quotable gems on society, culture, history, psychology, philosophy, and music--everything you would expect from a mind as deep and as broad as Dylan's. If only the audio version had been Dylan himself. It might've outsold all his music albums combined!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
staci magnolia
Would I recommend this book? It depends. If you only read one book a year, I would recommend that you pass over this title. If you are not a Dylan fan, this book is not going to make you one and large tracts of it will seem rather boring. Yet, if you are a fan, it is worth the read. Dylan is still Dylan and there are many interesting aspects of this book that will capture your attention. However, one should not be under the misconception that they are purchasing the Holy Grail or some literary masterpiece. It is an autobiography that leaves large gaps in Dylan's life unanswered. Some parts seem to ramble incomprehensibly and one should not be misled that volume one means the early years of his life. The book seems to be categorized, if at all, by random thoughts rather than time.

After reading the first chapter, if you are like me, you are going to feel cheated. I suspect that I had anticipated some secret answers that would demystify the chaos of the 1960s, but instead found Dylan portraying himself as a simple folk singer who stumbled upon his protest persona. The beginning of the book holds no great insight or revelations. We see a neophyte artist who constantly name drops - as if mentioning other great artists will somehow elevate his own self-importance.

The writing is awkward. I kept on wanting to put the words to music, but they did not flow in any melodic way in my head. Catch phrases are tossed out randomly which at first tend to cheapen the whole venture, but after a while they grow on you.

As I continued to read, I began to understand that my preconceptions of Bob Dylan interfered with my ability to comprehend his self-described story. The more I read, the more I discovered he very much is like anyone else, which may in fact, make his story even more remarkable. He is viewed by many as this messiah of his age, but in reality he is no more than a Forrest Gump running across the nation undesirably gathering throngs of followers who wait upon his every word. At points in the story he portrays himself as a sad, pathetic figure - much akin to an overweight, out of shape, former heavyweight boxing champion who's seeking one more big payday. Then you have to remind yourself he was still cranking out top 10 albums.

I am not sure why Dylan wrote this autobiography. It may simply be for money. There are numerous occasions Dylan points out where he settled or compromised for money ostensibly to support his family. Yet, his actions whether knowingly or not; planned or happenstance; still have had a significant impact on society. Overall, as a Dylan fan it was worth sitting down for a few hours and reading his words.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
grace cleofas
Whether you're a musician, painter, or just have a passion for art, Bob Dylan's book will inspire. Dylan provides us with many of the ideas, influences, and processes he combined to create great work. Sometimes he describes his creative experience fully, though most of the time he paints only in broad strokes and lets the reader complete the portrait. I couldn't sleep after reading this book; my mind was in a whirl.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A great book for everybody looking to understand Bob Dylan.

Not the "minstrel", nor the "folk" singer, nor the "poet", not the "freedom fighter" not even The author, etc.

Only facts.

Maybe some omissions but... who really cares ?

I won't give him 5 stars just because the points could have been better structured.

Sometimes it jumps from one thing to another with no so much "linking".
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book is AMAZING!!!!! Bob Dylan is one of my heros, so when i heard this book was coming out i got it as soon as i could. i was home sick from school one day and went to a book store next to my house and got it and didn't stop reading it all day. it was a friday so i didn't stop reading all weekend. if you like Bob Dylan it sucks you right into his world from the start. yea it jumps, but i like that. it gives it a unique feel. if you do not have this book, then GET IT!!! it is beautifully written and enchanting. you wont be able to put it down, and you will be sad when it ends. I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT TWO VOLUMES!!!!!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
what maria read
As good as I thought it would be, and different from what I expected at the same time. Made me want to buy Oh Mercy, after feeling like I sat in on those sessions.

I hope very much that there is a Volume 2.

Anybody else think it's weird that The Onion was listed as one of the publications praising this book (back of the paperback edition.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
All of the other reviews have summed this book up fairly well, but for me, Dylan's attention to pointing out the intricacies of the music that inspired his life was fascinating. This book is part biography and part music encyclopedia, and reads with a Kerouac rolling beat. I highly recommend seeking out the music he recognizes (if you weren't already familiar with it.) From Woody Guthrie to N.W.A., Dylan's analysis of many diverse compositions is a priceless insight of his genius.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
elena dillon
I am not sure why everyone seems to love this book so much. While I did enjoy the book, I didn't see it as ground breaking or magical. Dylan at times gets really personal with his writing, but also always seems to keep his distance. He's a wonderful song writer without question, but why some people look at him as a god for this I never have understood. In the book he makes a clear point to the reader, that he's more human than savior. This is a fun and interesting book, that contains many of the people that influenced him in his life. The inside view of these people, is probably one of the most engaging aspects of this little story. I am greatful that Dylan wrote this book, but to put it up on a pedistal and call it a classic is far reaching.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
yohanes nugroho
Interesting revelations throughout (his respect for Harry Belafonte and Gorgeous George are interesting), although I had hoped he would have spent more time on the experiences of his heyday rather than the past few years. His recollections are all over the map: he goes from 1964 to 1998 in the blink of an eye. I can't imagine what Volumes 2 and 3 will bring.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
allison james garcia
Bob Dylan's "Autobiography", or the choice passages released thus far are a revelation. Instead of this mumbling, off-the-wall, even angry young man, Robert Zimmerman Dylan comes across as a guy you'd definitely want to have a beer with, or swap stories, or even discuss world events with.

Bob, despite the initial Left-wing background, the bohemian stuff and all, just longed for a picket fenced home, roses in the garden, a wife and kids, or, in short, to be like most Americans were in the 1960s and early 1970s. But fame and notoriety had its black side, as everybody hounded the poor man.

Up in relatively remote Woodstock, Mr. Dylan was hounded by the Rock music paparazzi; he was hounded by the fans, he was hounded by the tourists even as he was trying to both recover from that motorcycle accident and enjoy his children. What Dylan experienced there was really "Rainy Day Woman" - everybody must get stoned - or stone poor Bob!

If one also expected Bob to just "hang" with the rest of the folkies and the rockers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, the Beatles and the Byrds, who took his acoustic-based songs, electrified them and made them something very special, well, you'd be in for a surprise. Bob also liked Hollywood folks and if wasn't pressed by the public was (and probably is) a great neighbor.

Bob Dylan isn't thought much as an innovator - more as a brilliant composer and thinker - but remember when he strapped on that electric guitar alongside The Band at Newport and revolutionized Folk Music. The purists threw the brickbats, but Folk music was never the same again - it was for better, not worse.

The stories about all of those great songs - "Blowin' in the Wind", "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Like A Rolling Stone", "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and the rest - maybe Mr. Dylan will cover them in this fascinating chronicle; maybe he won't. But his life experience, as surprising as it now seems, is something this reviewer is looking forward to read more of.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
ashley langford
Bob Dylan has long been considered elusive; a secretive soul not willing to accept and bask in his importance in American Music History. Even more so is Dylan's unwillingness to welcome the fact that he is essentially "The Voice of a Generation." His new book, Chronicles, Vol. 1, spends a great deal of time discussing how he does not want to be regarded as the holder of this title. The problem with this is that we already know that Dylan bought a house in Woodstock to escape from it, but fame followed him and forced him back to New York.

Dylan is a great writer, an exceptional poet, no one can take that from him. But, just as other greats are cursed by their accomplishments and abilities, many believe that Dylan should be writing prose with the proficiency of his poetry and lyrics. This is something that cannot happen, and we see it in Chronicles. Not only is his grammar often off, but his sentences don't always make complete sense and we get lost in his rambles about trivial events and facts. His writings on Pete Maravich are nice and respectful, but it has nothing to do with the ensuing events of his life.

What I enjoy most about Chronicles is his vignettes on the cities and environments. Greenwich Village in the sixties, Minneapolis before anyone knew what happened in Minneapolis, a midwesterner's observations of New Orleans - all of his writings on the places and people are interesting because Bob Dylan paints a beautiful picture, and we've known this since Blood on the Tracks and Freewheelin'.

In the end though, Dylan appears to be looking for a quick sell, using his name as a catalyst for publication and front shelves of Waldenbooks. His autobiography is spotty and unclear. The timing is skewed and often times unknown. It's difficult to frown on the writings from the same man who scripted some of the greatest anthems of a generation (and no matter how many ways he says he's not, Bob Dylan is still the voice of a culture dead or moved on), but Chronicles is not the American force of Highway 61. It does not move the soul the way The Thin Man can in his music.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
poonam gupta
I bought this a day or two after it came out.I loved it, especially the first and third part.There are so many biographies about Dylan out there,so many attempts to get inside his head or dissect his words, so it's really great to hear his story straight from the source.Dylan is really good at describing situations and people. I will definitly be buying volume 2 & 3 when they come out.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Chronicles basically reveals Dylan's musical influences from blues artists to rock & roll performers of the golden era of rock & roll. The book does not deal with his private life, but does reveal a limited bit of his professional life and relationship with other artist. Chronicles leaves you at an "arms length" in trying to figure out the personality and life of Bob Dylan The main thrust of the book presents his impressions and influences of the great singers of musicians upon his music.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jessica kowalewski
This is in response to the criticism of Sean Penn's pronunciation. In fact, Byron's "Don Juan" IS pronounced Don Jew-un. For example, in the poem it's rhymed with "true one," "new one," "drew on," etc.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mr c
To put it bluntly, the only thing missing from "Chronicles, Vol 1" was Bob Dylan, the person. The book goes into what reads like a tribute to his highly-detailed memory of prominant musicians of the time, as well as his prolific reading habits; dropping the names and works of more famous authors than most literate people could possibly read in a lifetime. He has a way of conveying all of this quite casually, which comes off as self-aggrandizement. Great. I admire literate people. I also liked his choice of works, and agreed with his assessment of Dylan Thomas' style being somewhat self-indulgent and flowery. But the only insight I got into Dylan, himself, was a comment at the beginning of the book, wherein he characterized himself as "polite, but not overly friendly." This is the tone of the entire book. Reading "Chronicles" is like watching a movie that hasn't yet hit the editing room. It jumps randomly from scene to scene, past to future...and back a stream-of-consciousness style rumination of things past. Unfortunately, it doesn't commit the author to any of it. He is just an observer. I learned far more about the people in his life than I did about him. His observations were razor-sharp and the characters flush with life...but still no Dylan. In a way, it felt quite purposeful; keeping himself shrouded in a kind of mythic fog. I suspect that he wanted his work to speak for him so that he wouldn't have to put himself on the line. Perhaps this was the only way he was able to communicate his feelings while keeping everyone guessing. This way Bob Dylan, the icon, is just a breath away from the man, which is the closest that some people ever care to get to the molton core of intimacy. 'See my work, see me' was the message. Well, okay, but everyone is human, mortal, flawed. No Gods here. Not even Dylan. This symbolic reality has blurry edges and doesn't tie anyone down to anything. It keeps the intimacy at a distance and his life on a pedestal. The bottom line is, if you want to know what life was like in Greenwich Village 35 years ago, this reads like a virtual live-cam set up on Bleeker Street. What I wanted to know was, what it FELT like being who he was and how those feelings MADE him BOB DYLAN. Don't get me started...
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sanchari banerjee
Chronicles tells the story--or, rather, eclectic parts of the story--of America's greatest poet-songwriter. But readers who, like me, come to the book with a fuzzy understanding of Dylan as the conscience of the 60s generation--a legendary figure standing against war and social injustice--will be disappointed. Dylan makes no bones about running as fast and as hard as he can from that role.

Instead, it's the story (eclectic parts of the story) of a man who loves his family and his music and who wants to be left alone. Fair enough. And along the way he shares some nice insights and turns some nice phrases. But for an icon who prided himself on having something to say, I was disappointed he felt he had so little to do.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
You can't blame Bob Dylan for keeping his personal life very private and out of public view. Everyone deserves privacy. For someone so famous, the risk of self-revelation is to be chewed up and spit out by the tabloids and gossip-mongers. Dylan says that Johnny Cash's song "I Walk the Line" was a huge influence, especially the opening words: "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine." Dylan says he took that line to heart and did keep a close watch on his innermost heart, and after reading this book it's plain that that's still the case. There's nothing really personal here, and to read his own account of himself you get the impression that he's the nicest guy in the world, never had a cross word for anyone and led a pretty much idyllic and idealistic life.

I guess that's a common fault of autobiographies: the whitewash effect. The less appealing details are skimmed over or, in this case, left out altogether. There are many accounts already out there portraying Dylan as a brilliant but arrogant SOB, who had plenty of unkind words for many people. Not mentioned here. As one example, he tells us about one of his romances, Suze Rotolo, and waxes poetic about her, comparing her to a Rodin sculpture. Later he says they "just passed out of each others' lives," "She took one turn in the road and I took another." He self-servingly leaves out of this benign scene little details like getting her pregnant, then ditching his "spiritual soul-mate" like dirt. He talks extensively about many of his songs and what the lyrics meant, but doesn't mention that he wrote "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" for Suze, or what his lyrics meant to him at the time. He also fails to mention that Suze then had an abortion of his child and afterwards attempted suicide by locking herself in her apartment and turning on the gas, and Bob saved her by breaking down the door, but then ditched her again, this time for Joan Baez. It would've made a much more interesting book to hear his version of that episode, since he brings Suze up in the first place, but no such details are forthcoming anywhere in the book. He mentions nothing of his marriage to Sara, such as the affair he had with the nanny that Sara hired to care for his children.

But why should he tell us anything really personal? It's not in his best interests, and one thing he makes clear is that he is very career-oriented, and very impressed with his own success. It would be foolish of him to reveal more than his musical influences and early contacts, and that's all he does. Two of the longest chapters describe the making of two albums, in great detail. They're sort of interesting, but read more like lengthy magazine articles. Throughout the book there's a lot of chatty name-dropping, and the mention that this or that person would eventually record one of his songs, that kind of thing.

In the end, though, this is Bob Dylan, one of the most brilliant of all musicians and songwriters. His music is on a level of its own and has influenced the world, so the fluff is of some interest, self-serving though it is. Overall, the book is fun, superficial, quick and easy reading. But now that I've read it, I wish I had waited for it to come to the library; I would've felt better afterwards if I didn't actually pay money for it. Buy his records. Borrow the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
megan vaughan

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★
phyllis tallent
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Thank God it's not an autobiography. His way of putting down his free ranging thoughts is just amazing. It is so lyrical, he does not waste a word. The "Oh Mercy" section is a book in itself. Please Bob, give us more.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
evelin burns c
As I read through Dylan's book I couldn't help but feel most of the book is relating his preferences for music and all the people he has met during his life. Dylan will devote pages to totally incidental things and then gloss over or omit a key event. Besides that, the book is intentionally not chronological for no apparent reason which really confuses all the forward looking phrases like "it was not that time yet."

Overall I would say that the book speaks more to Dylan's taste in music than it does to his own humanity and in the end I don't feel I grasp his person much better than before I read the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vrinda pendred
I am enthralled by this new Dylan autobiography...lucid, insightful and elegantly written. My only question is if Dylan has been so concerned through the years about de-mystifying his reputation, why didn't he write this decades ago?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
morag smith
Like a lot of people, I've grown up listening to Bob Dylan, even obsessing over collecting his work, so when I heard of this book I pre-ordered it from the store. A happy purchase I must say. This book of course covers Dylan's early life, his intense love of folk music and distrust of the media and "superstar" alienation. It was entirely enjoyable, though I wish all the volumes were wrapped up in one book. Bottom line: I recommend the book! Other quick the store purchases that I've enjoyed include "Transformer: the Lou Reed Story" and "The Losers Club" by Richard Perez.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
steph hicks
This is a fascinating look at Dylan's creative processes back from the very beginning when he first left home. This, along with the DVD "No Direction Home", give a great look into Dylan's influences, where he came from.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
debrah davidson
It is impossible to have grown up under the influence of his music and not be interested in what Dylan has to say. Yet somehow I felt that he really missed the opportunity to express himself. I found that he writes his autobiography with metaphors that reflect his songwriting tendencies, e.g. "There was a cold wind blowing outside...", and do not advance his narrative. Also, didn't he use an editor? The story meanders here and there without temporal sequence or evident intentionality. Aside from these flaws, I was fascinated by the opportunity to glance into the mind of such an important artist.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
craig louis
I find it hard to believe that people are complaining that Bob has not written the book that they were expecting. Bob has written a book that tells his story, there is no right or wrong. If this isnt the book about Bob that you want, read any of the other unauthorized biographies that waste shelf space in bookstores world wide. I am a fan of Bobs work not his personal life, this book does not disappoint and I look forward to other volumes. Quit complaining and be glad he wrote what he has.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I loved this book. It is written entirely from the point of view of his love for music and the influences people have had on his life related to music. It is not a tell all book so those looking for that kind of expose won't find it in this book. What they will find is how much he lived, breathed, and thought music and how he loved observation. If there is one phrase that describes this book, it is Dylan the Observer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It doesn't suprise me that Bob Dylan has written a great book. What suprises me is how great it is. I have loved Dylan for over 40 years. I love him more now. Any preconceived notions I had about the man went out the window. In poetic language he tells us his story. We are richer for him having been here.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
abdul ahad
I love early Dylan and I'm especially fond of the 'Bootleg' stuff he's been releasing lately. But this book, like his later records is a real drag. He just drops name after name after name but he doesn't have one interesting story to tell about any of them. Then he devotes two very long chapters to two mediocre mid career albums, New Morning and Oh Mercy. I consider Dylan the greatest lyricist in rock'n'roll history. He's also one of the most important musicians of all time. His guitar playing is greatly underrated but come on! That book needs some spice. If he doesn't want to reveal anything he shouldn't write an autobiography. We already know he loves Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jean anthis
I was flim flammed by the master huckster. Dylan's music is ingrained in my life, and I had some doubts (see Tarantula). Still I hoped we might get some insight into the making of some great songs. In 'Chronicles', Dylan claims he was always uncomfortable with being a mythic figure in American music, but the truth is revealed here as he obscures, ignores and papers over facts. Like a politician burnishing an image, he sells himself as an all-American folk hero just trying to sing an honest song. Part truth, mostly hokum. Just beneath the surface, one senses driving ambition. And he name drops. A story about once playing guitar for John Wayne might have been funny, but after so many other famous mentions it's tedious. When he finally cranks it up to talk about making an album, we get the creation of 'Oh Mercy'. Not a top ten on my list. Maybe the good albums will be included in Volume Two, but I'll pass on buying the hardback next time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I've always wondered about what went on behind the scenes in Bob Dylan's life. This great book which chronicles BD's early, middle, and later periods is a thought-provoking look behind the curtain of the inscrutable OZ. Really well written. Kept my interest throughout.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shanda brown
As a casual fan of Bob Dylan, I picked up this book after reading some favorable reviews. Mr. Dylan's style can best be described as unconventional, but it seems to fit a songwriter's sensibilities. I recommend this book as an interesting, quick read, and as something quite different from the norm.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
yes..its bob. or bobby as his friends call him.

its his unmistakeable voice....bringing it all back home.

but chronicles vol 1 doesn't have the ring of blood and sweat that i had hoped for. perhaps the vol 2 will.

vol 1 comes off more or less as a very well edited diary.

bobs daily diary about his life in his world.

i dont think bob put much effort into this endevor himself... more like he had the 'director's final cut'.

that said: bob is a great journalist and all those millions of pages of daily reflections have finally been put into a highly readable and very enjoyable script.

he certainly has had a life worth chronicling
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marg dart
Best book by a musician (with apologies to Keith Richards) or poet (no apologies to any of them) since the no-beginning time. The big surprise is that he writes like an old friend, not like a Delphic oracle or encryption artist. If you love his music, this is a not-to-miss. If you don't, then what's the point anyway?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim agee
I always wonder what it would be like to hear all about the life of a rock star in that star's own words. Well, Bob Dylan was a great place to start. This Chronicles book showed me a time in America that I am to young to have experienced for myself. I will definitely read the next volume and the one after that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jude giaramita
I was not sure what to expect from Bob Dylan's "Chronicles: Volume One." Bob Dylan's reclusive nature and contempt for the media make it hard to get a real look at the man behind the green smoky haze. This book finally removes the haze.

The book starts with Dylan all alone in New York town. If this was in the summer it wouldn't be that bad, but he arrives in the dead of winter. All alone he bums food and places to stay. Many of his first shows were played for only hamburgers and a drink.

At first I was upset when I heard he decided to talk about New Morning and Oh Mercy instead of albums like Blonde on Blonde. I think Dylan picked the album he did because he was so drugged during other albums he does not remember much from them. The chapter on Oh Mercy gives the greatest picture of a Dylan recording session ever. I hope we can someday hear all the outtakes Dylan speaks of.

The greatest part of this book is Dylan's descriptions of people and places. Dylan uses his poetic nature to paint marvelous pictures. We walk right along with Dylan through many different times in his life. He is very honest with events, but still covers up a lot. We hear nothing of his divorces or children. We hear nothing of Dylan's womanizing ways. We hear nothing of his conversion to Christianity. Volume 2 might address these if we are lucky.

I am a big Dylan fan, but this book can be read by anyone. People might think I'm going to far, but this is better than Kerouac's "On The Road." Buy this book now! It is the best book I've read this year.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Since Bob Dylan published Tarantula in 1966 his autobiography has been anticipated with some trepidation. Would it be as unreadable? Would it lay to rest the misinformation spread about him and by himself. Well, it is certainly readable, and it is in fact beautifully written in a style that flows and rolls with ease. This is certainly not a book of self-analysis, nor self reflection. It is a book of reminiscences and astute observations and characterisations of people and places, and is particularly engaging in conveying the vibrancy of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. The style is reminiscent of a detective novel, using the typical tricks of the genre, and of film, in using flash-backs and leaps forward, as he chronicles his way through the early years of fulfilling what he believed to be his destiny. He describes listening to Ricky Nelson while waiting to be called to sing at Café Wha, and then relates how ten years later Nelson was booed off the stage for changing direction. Nelson was a man with whom he could empathise, having gone through the experience many times himself.

This is not a history. Bob Dylan is born on page 29, and after gliding through various episodes, including signing for John Hammond at Columbia records, he returns to describe his home town of Hibbing Minnisota on page 229. In between there is a sudden leap to 1987 when he is recuperating from a hand injury, and artistically burnt-out. He begins by describing a meeting with Lou Levy, the music publisher at Leeds Music, just after arriving in Greenwich Village and ends the book by telling how Al Grossman, his manager, gave him $1000 to buy himself out of the deal shortly after.

His character sketches of the people he knew are precise and incisive, such as of Tiny Tim, later famous for his hit, sang in a falsetto voice accompanied by a ukulele, `Tip-toe Through the Tulips',. In describing Bob Neuwirth, who became a close friend, Dylan writes, in Raymond Chandler style: `Right from the start you could tell that Neuwirth had a taste for provocation and that nothing was going to restrict his freedom. He was in a mad revolt against something. You had to brace yourself when you talked to him.' Neuwirth appears in the Dylan Film `Don't Look Back', and these character traits are evident in his treatment of Joan Baez.

There is a good deal of self justification in the book. Dylan tries to put the record straight on a few mythologies that have surrounded him. He treats in a cursory manner his well known predilection to fabricate stories about his own background. He explains how when confronted with Billy James the publicity man for Columbia Records, he felt intimidated by his Ivy League Harvard presence, telling him that he was from Illinois, worked on construction in Detroit, had no family, and had rode into New York on a freight train. He doesn't explain why he lied about his past to his friends, nor does he try to analyse how hurt his parent were at being disowned by him. He is quite bitter in remembering how Joan Baez criticised him for abandoning the folk movement. He vehemently denies having been a spokesman for a generation, but this is disingenuous. He didn't feel comfortable with the responsibility of being hailed as a spokesman, but there is no getting away from the fact that he consciously wrote songs, such as `Bowing in the Wind', Playboys and Playgirls', and `The Times They are A' Changin' in order to appeal the social conscience of his generation. After Kennedy's assassination he felt distinctively vulnerable, and did not himself want to become a target. He has on many occasions denied that he took his name from Dylan Thomas, and once famously said that `I have done more for Dylan Thomas than he ever did for me'. In this book he talks about the process of choosing a stage name. He had thought of calling himself Robert Allyn, changing the e in his own name to a y. At about the same time he read some Dylan Thomas, and imagined that Dylan must have changed his name from Dillon to Dylan. Bobby Dylan, he thought, was too much like Bobby Darin, and anyway there were too many Bobbies making records. He settled on Bob Dylan, because it sounded right, not because he had any particular liking for the poetry. In fact, in an interview in Robert Shelton's archives, Dylan explicitly say that he disliked Dylan Thomas' flowery and affected style.

Fans who were won over to Bob Dylan by the strength of his lyrics will be disappointed that he talks only of the process of writing songs, but not of their content. He makes no attempt to explain their meaning, nor to analyse their impact. This is not surprising given that when asked about the meaning of his lyrics he always got irritated and dismissed the questions with such curt answers as `I don't know, man'.

The book is not an act of self-disclosure, the mask is not taken from the face, and there is very little sense of the emotional life of the author. He says very little about intimate relations, except to express his desire to protect his wife and family from the gaze of publicity, and to complain of the constant invasion of privacy. He also says very little about his relationship with Joan Baez, or St, Joan as she was pejoratively known.

Bob Dylan's Chronicles are well worth the wait, and while they do not allow the reader too great an insight into the inner life of the artist, they reveal a great deal about his psychology, and how he is still prepared to be economical with the truth on many issue. In fact, he reveals a great deal about his manner of writing when he talks of himself and Bono, of U2. He says that they are very alike in that `We can strengthen any argument by expanding on something either real or not real' (p.175).

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
From one of the great music talents comes a masterful memoir of life in the early stages of his life. It is well worth the purchase and you will find it to be most memorable.

Other memoirs to look for: Nightmares Echo by Katlyn Stewart and A Paper Life by Tatum O'Neil.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nanci svensson
The narrative in this book has a lilting melody akin to that of a leaf, newly released from the tree - the words, one after the other, move in harmony to the entire score . . . narrative only a poet could bring to life. My only difficulty in reading this book was finding a resting point . . . but somebody has to pay the light bill. Chronicles II . . . I eagerly anticipate its release.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kathleen hughes
I bought this for a prof of mine, who is a major Dylan fan and has been for decades. He loved it; what was meant to be a brief flipping-through turned into reading the book in one sitting. I trust his judgment. : )
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rekha mcnutt
I use audio books, and this audio book only comes abridged (YUCK), and is narrated by Sean Penn. I've listened to maybe 50 to 75 audio books over the last couple of years and I haven't heard a narrator as bad as Sean Penn. Thank goodness I did not buy this audiobook.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ken brooks
As a longtime Bob Dylan fan, I was excited when my girlfriend gave me CHRONICLES, Volume 1 for my birthday. It's the perfect book for a rainy weekend. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down.

Bob's turn of phrase, his quirky but sometimes disjointed thoughts and always fascinating insights made me feel the book is a great companion to the best of his CDs.

Dylan and Hendrix have been major creative influences on my thinking. If you feel the same, I'm sure you'll enjoy Bob's thoughts. Me and several buddies are looking forward to the next volume.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mara sanchez
An experimental memoir - is it fact or fiction? Whatever, it's an artwork that defies easy comprehension, like a Dylan song. The occasional asides on his views of other artists are fun. Just don't expect answers to any questions you may have.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I'm always iffy about autobiographies as they are subject to 'image crafting' and 'convenient memory' but this tome pulls few punches as far as these things go. I think it could have been a bit longer and wonder why Dylan glosses over his motocycle crash, but all in all a good time here for fans.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
carolyn thomas
Rather than provide meaningful details of his life, Dylan provides only disjointed incidents, many of which the reader would consider trivial. The writing style is so filled with claptrap or trite prose, that one comes away feeling that Dylan is being disingenuous, that he doesn't believe what he's writing. I have been listening to an audio version of the book, and find myself muttering rather often, "Shut up, Dylan!" because of his penchant for wasting time discussing stupidities, trivialites or overblown "philosophy" rather than the details of his life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It doesn't suprise me that Bob Dylan has written a great book. What suprises me is how great it is. I have loved Dylan for over 40 years. I love him more now. Any preconceived notions I had about the man went out the window. In poetic language he tells us his story. We are richer for him having been here.

Let me also strongly recommend the book Sex and the perfect lover by Mabel Iam
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
rebekah boisvert
Yes, this memoir is written very well. Yes, Bob Dylan is a consummate songwriter. Yes, he is enigmatic and seemingly sincere. Most of all Bob Dylan is condescending to the generation that loved him the most and gave him their ear. If he hadn't spoken to us no one else would have given him the time of day much less the accolades and position of poet laureate of the baby boomers. All I can say is I never expected him to be so ungrateful to the people that validated him and made him what he is. I guess the question is: What defines an artist? It is the old tree falling in the woods question? If no one were there to hear him would Dylan be an artist? If in fact his fan base is past their prime and out of gas why then is he singing the songs that he wrote for us during his new touring episode? Where is his new music to garner this new fan base? I am disgusted by the reality of Dylan's denial and perspective. Next, he sure did obscure his addictions, frenzies into alcoholism, which he veils completely. He never mentions the actual self-infliction of his terrible 'freak' accident that mangled his hand; He certainly doesn't mention (it) being self-inflicted.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
morgan nolte
I almost thought I was re-living the beginning of Kerouac's 'On The Road', or Szymczyk's 'Toilet: The Novel'. The descriptions are great! This book won't dissapoint the average reader, or the Dyland fan.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kathy reeves
I love Sean Penn as an actor nearly as much as I worship Bob Dylan as, well, Bob Dylan. With a four-hour drive ahead, I load up my CD player or the long haul. In a few minutes, I say, "Penn's got perfect pitch for this reading. He's got all the nuances and vocal stylings you'd want. UNTIL I hear Sean Penn pronounce Don Juan as Don Jew-in. Not once, but three times. Inexcusable. Makes you wonder if rolling out the CD meant more than assuring its accuracy; someone's sloppy editing ruins this for me.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
eric berntson
Anyone looking for deep insights into Bob Dylan and his art will likely be disappointed in this rather skimpy memoir in which he seemingly picks out a handful of aspects of his life and career at random while ignoring everything else. We get a very lengthily chapter on the making of his 1989 album "Oh Mercy" which is a solid album, but it seems odd that this relatively obscure work gets so much ink while groundbreaking albums like "Highway 61 Revisited," and "John Wesley Harding" go ignored. Also missing is anything about his infamous motorcycle accident or his late 70's conversion to fundamentalist Christianity.

Perhaps much of this is to be covered later, after all the full titles of this book is "Chronicles, Volume One" but thus far Mr. Dylan's memoirs come across as little more than a brief stream of consciousness attempt to reassert his reputation for being an egnegmatic recluse.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
susie ince
What a dissapointment. This book desperately needed editing. Such namedropping yet very few interesting stories about anyone-including himself. As a child of the 60's I felt a need to push on, and keep reading not so much to learn about him but to recall that period in time and he did recreate the Village of the 50's and 60's for me. But the book kept putting me to sleep.

I think one point he was trying to make is that he was not a voice or THE voice of an era but merely a songwriter who became popular. He sure convinced me.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
The book was fantastic in the beginning and in the end - but somewhere in the middle Dylan seemed to get caught up in his own self pity and bitterness of his fame. He talks about his fans with little affection, and resents his name as the leader of a generation. Yet, he contradicts himself later while he attempts to rediscover an audience, a new, younger group. At times I felt like I was wasting my time reading him whine. However, this could be a tribute to his ability to let us understand. At the beginning he is in Greenwich very open minded, and in the end he gets a contract with columbia records - in the middle he is burnt out and tired of his life.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I have always enjoyed some of Bob Dylan's music, so was looking forward to learning more about the person. I struggled to read the entire book, but was hoping at some point a different Dylan would emerge. I found the book to be a combination of narcissistic babbling, name dropping and inconsistencies. He seems to spend more time on music theory than on musical performance, and there does not appear to be any academic credentials to support the theorizing. His values seem to be shallow and malleable, and it is difficult to know where he is coming from.

It is also clear that he is more a synthesizer of music than an original producer. He borrows freely from Woody Guthrie and other artists, but seems to complain about the fame he has achieved. His language seems to be pedantic and almost pretentious, and it proceeds in one long paragraph after another. One would hardly expect this glib type of verbal expression, considering the persona that he displayed when he performed. He is hardly a "counter-culture child of the 60s." In fact, he seems aloof and sometimes conservative, and always self-centered.

I will not comment further on the book, but I will certainly not purchase Volume 2.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jennifer lehman
early in the book, Dylan relates a story about being interviewed by publicist and how most of the answers he gives are totally 'hokum hophead-talk'. I can't help but wonder if the rest of the book is also mostly that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura ann
I never could understand the obsession with this guy. I mean, look at him. What do you see? Just another confused, flawed human being trying to get through this thing called life & doing the best that he can.

Why was he idolized? Why put anyone on a pedestal? I don't get it.

I never even payed much attention to his art until Time Out Of Mind (which, in my humble opinion, is terrific, no matter what Dylan himself says about it or what others even say about it). I like the music & the lyrics are easy to relate to. Most of all, I love his craggy/raspy way of singing on this record. Makes it all more believable and heartfelt. The Time Out Of Mind record made me want to check out some of his other tunes & was pleasantly surprised. One other favorite CD is The Essential Bob Dylan.

Because I like the music, does that now mean that I worship the ground he walks on? I don't think so. I like Roy Orbison's singing a lot more and I never idolized the Big O; like Janis Joplin's way of belting out a song & never felt she was some sort of all-knowing supernatural being either, etc., That's my two cents.

RE: Knockin' On Heaven's Door. A moving piece of work; on the other hand, the Hurricane Carter tune (although sounds good and is well written) is missguided. Why? All one has to do is read up on Carter to see the truth. Guy was no angel. Who is? My point for bringing this up? Just further proof that Dylan is like everyone else, and like everyone else has his weaknesses and lapses in judgement.

To be fair, I haven't read Chronicles Vol. 1, but have read the Newsweek article, as well as the excerpt from Dylan's book--and found both worthwhile.

I also believe this was a good idea, on Mr. Dylan's part, to get his own thoughts down on things, instead of having his life and music misinterpreted by "professional" critics, as they have done over the years.

I'll read the rest of the tome--as soon as my local library gets it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maayan schwab
Opened up the box and what did we see?

In his own write, the words of Bobby Z.

Started in to read while we ate our lunches--

There was famous names, a-comin in bunches.

Folk-singers . . . Hum-dingers . . .American i-cons.

Kept on a-readin; they was all there,

Playin their git tars, growin their hair.

Van Ronk, Stookey, Brownie McGhee,

Freddy Neil, Lanois, and, at last, Joanie B.

The in-side story ... or some of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
catherine george
Appeals and following you, Bob...

You've already answered to all your critics here in song - ..

"Stone you when your trying to make a book..." Oh?! that's right..

"But, I would not feel so all alone, Eh, Heverybody must get stoned".

(from a distance, the crowd, yee-ha! live woo's, yeah's in the background, fade out, one more time, just a different medium...
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
amanda notman
I have read maybe 30 + books of biographies of music eras and performers and have enjoyed them all except for this autobiography. I have always been a fan of Dylan's music but I have to tell you that it was a painstaking effort just to finish this damn book. Dylan digressions and meanderings were boring and uninteresting. There is nothing in this book that made me want to turn to the next page, basically a complete waste of time.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
michael thimsen
I thought that this book was ok, since I don't like to read. I love music (metal) but wanted to get to know who Bob Dylan is. This book told me the main details of Bob's career. I recommened this to people who love to read. For others, they might find this boring.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
krisann parks
I remember loving the music twenty years ago, but I was disappointed by the book. It didn't take me back to a good place or give me extraordinary insight into this man. I felt is was just another way for him to make a buck and keep his name alive.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jeff michele
Bob Dylan has always insisted he is no guru or prophet. If further evidence is needed to back him up, it is in this book. Just a guy who writes songs and sort of sings. We begin with Bob in New York in 1960: taking in the scene, laying the groundwork for his career. Mostly he describes places where he stayed. There is scant mention of his relations with the various people who helped him. Then a jump to the late 60s, married with children. His wife and kids remain shadowy figures in the background. Bob jumps randomly around place and time. His account of the making of Oh Mercy exhausts all but the most diehard fan. Don't mention the `p' word! Borrowings are rife. `Summoned magic shadows into being' comes from Sax Rohmer's Return of Dr Fu-Manchu, and `the booming of war drums' from Jack London's The God of His Father. The title of course comes from books of the Old Testament. Web searching will reveal many other borrowings. One expects Bob might have given an assessment of his life and career. His meanderings don't link up to form a main stream.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I alternated between amused interest and stark raving boredom. While Dylan would paint an intriguing word picture of some of the times and places that he has passed through, some times his words would read like a pile of blank verse that wasn't really all that moving or even interesting. One example of the things that reached me was his encounter with Gorgeous George near the beginning of his career. An example of what left me cold were his overwrought declarations of self-perceived importance to his generation and the revolutions of the sixties. It left me wanting to say to him, "Lighten up, Bob."
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kelly denton
Imagine "The Kid Stays In The Picture" narrated by anyone other than Robert Evans? No way. What a disappointment to find Dylan's "Chronicles" read by someone other than Dylan - it's laughable! Hahaha! Why bother? Don't. Read the book instead . . .
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rebekah moan
“Chronicles, volume 1”, the autobiography of Bob Dylan, gets two stars instead of one for sentimental reasons: I’ve liked his music. I’ve enjoyed Dylan’s music almost since he started recording. I bought this book about ten years ago and decided to read it because I wanted to decide whether to keep it at home, put it in storage, or get rid of it altogether. If you expect to like this book because you like Bob Dylan’s music, think again. I think I may even like his music less now.
The autobiographies which I’ve absolutely loved tended to be written by people who weren’t necessarily famous, people who had nothing to lose by being honest about their flaws, who had no image to protect, and who had a talent or skill for using words well. When the author is a person who has some degree of notoriety among the general public, I’ve often felt I was reading the story of two different people: the original “real” identity of their authentic self, and the secondary projected “image”. Celebrity authors often, consciously or not, seem to mask their real self with the image of who everyone thinks they are. Maybe it’s just the effect that selling out has on a person, that the wealth, fame, and popularity encourages them to believe they are who everyone wants or expects them to be. In any event, such autobiographies are usually far from insightful, and Dylan’s is no exception. It’s amusing in a bad way: it isn’t entertaining, it’s laughable.
There is no co-writer credited, no acknowledgments (and no index). It seems unlikely the book even had an editor, and that’s not just because there are a lot of mismatched verb tenses. It’s sometimes said of non-fiction books that if it had been fiction, people would consider it unbelievable. However, “Chronicles”, also non-fiction, left me wondering why it had even been written at all. It’s not that it’s mundane; it’s that it’s boring and badly written.
To sum up the 5 chapters: chapters 1 and 2 recount Dylan’s early years in New York; chapter 3 inexplicably skips to 1969 (or sometime toward the end of 1968: the chapter begins with Dylan mentioning his wife and 3 children: his 3rd child was born in July, 1968, and his 4th was born in December, 1969); chapter 4 begins in 1987 with Dylan’s rekindled desire to go on tour, his formulaic inspiration for songwriting (which isn’t even his own formula, but is one he claims was given to him by Lonnie Johnson in the early 1960s), and recording sessions for an album; and chapter 5 is a more intelligible, coherent “re-write” of chapters 1 and 2 (his early days in New York).
It’s fine that chapter 5 was out of chronological sequence; however, it was just a better, more readable version of the first two chapters, and the redundancy added nothing. It may have been included at the end hoping the reader would forget how bad the preceding four chapters were.
The 4th chapter also includes several song verses that were unrecorded. They are all terrible. The only purpose they serve is to show why some lyrics are best forgotten.
In recounting his trip to Princeton to accept an Honorary Doctorate, Dylan says, “I was glad I came to get the degree though. I could use it” (p. 134). Without considering Dylan an intellectual heavyweight, I expected his writing to be superior to that of a freshman at a liberal arts college. I was disappointed. Writing doesn’t have to be profound, but it does have to make sense. Much of “Chronicles” simply doesn’t make sense: it’s just weird in a way that goes beyond my personal pet peeves as a reader. I hesitate to categorize them as “bad writing”, but my “pet peeves” include such things as unnecessary words, unintentional silliness, contradictory points of view, belaboring the obvious, insulting a reader’s intelligence, bad similes, the author’s use of “you” when referring to himself, redundancy….All of these are present in “Chronicles”, in abundance.
Dylan’s vocabulary is limited. Consider Dylan’s take on the use of words in ballads:
“You could exhaust all the combinations of your vocabulary without having to learn any vocabulary. Lyrically they worked on some kind of supernatural level and they made their own sense. You didn’t have to make your own sense out of it.” (p. 240)
Using words that make sense to other people is called “communicating”. It can sometimes be a struggle. Dylan has shirked that effort in favor of a kind of intellectual laziness that borders on snobbery and is hard to excuse.
As far as belaboring the obvious, upon wandering into a quiet store off the beaten path and meeting the proprietor for the first time, Dylan writes:
“He put down his tool and smiled, got soft voiced and told me a little bit about himself. He wasn’t distant or guarded.” (p. 206)
It’s clear from the previous sentence the shopkeeper “wasn’t distant or guarded”.
Dylan mentions he and his wife, “were sitting outside on the porch facing the veranda….” (p. 210); a porch and a veranda are essentially the same thing, and both, by definition, are outside.
Dylan’s skill as a song writer is clearly surpassed by his mastery of ridiculous similes and mixed metaphors. Here are some examples (in no particular order). The occasional comment in parentheses after the page number is my own:
Describing Bono of U2: “Spending time with Bono was like eating dinner on a train – feels like you’re moving, going somewhere….He can roar ‘til the earth shakes. He’s also a closet philosopher….He’s like that guy in the old movie, the one who beats up a rat with his bare hands and wrings a confession out of him. If Bono had come to America in the early part of the century he would have been a cop.” (p. 174)
“After a while you start to feel like a ghost from one of the tombs, like you’re in a wax museum below crimson clouds.” (p. 181)
“It was like Joan of Arc was out there. (Or Joan Armatrading.) Whoever it was, somebody was out there working like hell.” (p. 213) (Apparently it made no difference, as long as her first name was “Joan”.)
“He could have been a cave dweller. He sounds like he’s at the edge of the fire, or in the deep snow, or in a ghostly forest, the coolness of conscious obvious strength, full tilt and vibrant with danger.” (p. 217) (FYI, he’s describing Johnny Cash.)
“The production sounds deserted, like the intervals of the city have disappeared. It’s cut out from the abyss of blackness – visions of a maddened brain, a feeling of unreality – the heavy price of gold upon someone’s head. Nothing standing, even corruption is corrupt. Something menacing and terrible.” (p. 216) (Reminder: he’s talking about a recording session here. I don’t know how “intervals of a city” disappear, or what “an abyss of blackness” is – maybe it’s similar to the blackness of an abyss, or maybe there can be an abyss of some other color to a person who smoked as much pot as I suspect Dylan has.)
“Sun Pie wore rimmed spectacles. Every once in a while sunlight would shoot off like sparks – like comets from a dark sky blasting off the rims.” (p. 208) (Talk about hyperbole. Imagination is one thing, but….They’re eyeglasses. Dylan is definitely trying way too hard here.)
“Someone would come along eventually who would have it again – someone who could see into things, the truth of things – not metaphorically, either – but really see, like seeing into metal and making it melt, see it for what it was and reveal it for what it was with hard words and vicious insight.” (p. 219) (I think “seeing into metal and making it melt” was a special effect reserved for creatures in bad sci-fi films.)
“Danny’s sonic atmosphere makes it sound like it’s coming out of some mysterious, silent land.” (p. 211) (Can’t resist pointing out this gem begs the questions: how can it be a “silent land” if sounds are coming out of it?)
“The song was like looking at words in a mirror and checking out the reverse images. It’s like you set up a thick smokescreen and then put the real action ten miles away.” (p. 212) (There are no words….)
“Something wasn’t clicking, like when the world is hidden from your eyes and you need to find it.” (p. 199)
“As a vocalist, it was like trying to scale the slippery trunk of a tree.” (p. 193)
“It felt more like I had instantly risen up from a noncommissioned volunteer to an honorable knight – stripes and gold stars.” (p. 247) (He’s talking here about having discovered the recordings of Woody Guthrie and deciding to sing nothing but Woody Guthrie songs.)
“I felt like I had nowhere to go, felt like one of the dead men walking through the catacombs.” (p. 252) (Dead men don’t walk through catacombs, they’re buried there.)
“My lyrics, some written as long as twenty years earlier, would now explode musicologically like an ice cloud.” (p. 161)
“I had been leaving a lot of my songs on the floor like shot rabbits for a long time.” (p. 162)
“We live in a political world. Flags flying into the breeze. Comes out of the blue – moves towards you – like a knife cutting through cheese.” (p. 166)
“He was like a doctor with scientific principles.” (p. 197) (As opposed to a doctor WITHOUT “scientific principles”? Who would that be?)
Dylan frequently rattles off lists of current events as if he thinks his readers are ignorant of general cultural history. People who aren’t familiar with the world since the 1950s probably won’t read an autobiography of Bob Dylan to get a history lesson in 100 words or less. He expresses curiosity regarding people and places and events, but apparently not enough to educate himself on any of it. He seems to “wonder” about things that are easily discoverable or commonly known facts. When he meets Archibald MacLeish, Dylan writes:
“MacLeish….told me some remarkable stuff about the novelist Stephen Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage….MacLeish…said…I should check out Red Badge of Courage. It sounded like Crane was the Robert Johnson of literature. Jimmie Rodgers died of TB, too. I wondered if they ever crossed paths”. (p. 111)
What?! Rather than superficial comparisons and name dropping, maybe Dylan should have actually READ The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe he would have had something interesting to say about it. As for another famous book:
“A few years earlier, I’d read The Prince and had liked it a lot. Most of what Machiavelli said made sense, but certain things stick out wrong – like when he offers the wisdom that it’s better to be feared than loved, it kind of makes you wonder if Machiavelli was thinking big. I know what he meant, but sometimes in life, someone who is loved can inspire more fear than Machiavelli ever dreamed of.” (p. 141) (This entire diatribe seems to be a meager sophomoric attempt to get some academic credibility; it’s just silly. I won’t bother to memorialize the ways Dylan insults James Joyce; I’d rather not dignify his remarks with a response.)
As far as passages that make no sense, consider the following examples, in no particular order (my comments in parentheses following the page numbers):
“….he was born one hundred years too late. He should have been wearing a wide cape, a plumed hat and riding with his sword held high.” (p. 135) (Seeing as how Dylan is describing a cavalier, he must mean three hundred – not one hundred – years earlier).
“The statue seemed to know we were there.” (p. 177) (??!!)
“The air was filled with banana leaves.” (p. 265) (It may be worth pointing out the context here: he’s talking about meeting a girl backstage at a nightclub).
“The concept didn’t exist in my subconscious mind.” (p. 196) (Would he know if it did? It’s not called the “subconscious” for nothing….)
“There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands….Everyone seems to be from some very old Southern families. Either that, or a foreigner.” (p. 180) (Contradiction without irony is just nonsense.)
“His pieces were perversely complex, although very simple.” (p. 263) (Likewise more nonsensical contradiction without irony.)
“It was frigid and burning, yearning – lonely and apart.” (p. 214) (Yet more contradiction without irony: frigid and burning are opposites.)
“There’s only one day at a time here, then it’s tonight and then tomorrow will be today again…Great place to be intimate or do nothing.” (p. 181) (Is this supposed to be some kind of revelation? Isn’t this true everywhere on the planet, or does Dylan think time, activity, and rest only exist in New Orleans?)
“There are good deeds and bad deeds. A good person can do a bad thing and a bad person can do a good thing.” (p. 197) (More pop psychology….At least I think I know where Dylan gets it from: on page 226 he described his dad: “He was pragmatic and always had a word of cryptic advice.”)
And, along the lines of pop psychology, I present these gems for your consideration:
“Reality can be overwhelming.” (p. 171)
“You live with what life deals you.” (p. 220)
“Conceit is not necessarily a disease.” (p. 171)
“What does anything ever mean?” (p. 221)
“Sometimes you could be looking for heaven in the wrong places.” (p. 202)
“But I had seen a lot of other things broken, too – bowls, brass lamps, vessels and jars and jugs, buildings, busses, sidewalks, trees, landscapes – all these things, when they’re broken, make you feel ill at ease…It’s beastly hard to fix anything.” (p. 173)
“Even a lost cause, I thought, would be better than no cause.” (p. 247)
I found myself wondering how Dylan could actually remember some things. I suppose the short answer is he didn’t remember, he invented. That may be the case with “Ray Gooch” and “Chloe Kiel” (who Dylan claims he stayed with in New York City in the early 1960s), and some readers have speculated that their existence is highly improbable. Maybe they are composite characters? Who knows…According to Dylan:
“I have a problem sometimes remembering someone’s real name, so I give them another one.” (p. 169)
This tendency toward fabrication (in an autobiography?) may make some sense given some of Dylan’s own words from “Chronicles”:
“What did I owe the rest of the world? Nothing. Not a damn thing. The press? I figured you lie to it. For the public eye, I went into the bucolic and mundane as far as possible.” (p. 123)
And it’s true he clearly felt under no obligation to be honest in anyway as he reveals:
“I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” (p. 114)
Honesty is a character trait, not a quality a person discards or adopts at the drop of a hat. A reader of “Chronicles” can’t be blamed for hesitating to believe Dylan when he claims to be writing the “truth” since he also wrote:
“Truth was the last thing on my mind, and even if there was such a thing, I didn’t want it in my house.” (p. 125)
“So much for the truth. I was gonna talk out of both sides of my mouth and what you heard depended on which side you were standing. If I ever did stumble on any truth, I was gonna sit on it and keep it down.” (p. 126)
“If you have to lie, you should do it quickly and as well as you can.” (p. 150)
“Sometimes you say things in songs even if there’s a small chance of them being true. And sometimes you say things that have nothing to do with the truth of what you want to say and sometimes you say things that everyone knows to be true. Then again, at the same time, you’re thinking that the only truth on earth is that there is no truth in it. Whatever you are saying, you’re saying in a ricky-tick way. There’s never time to reflect. You stitched and pressed and packed and drove, is what you did.” (p. 220)
Lastly, when speaking of U2’s lead singer:
“When Bono or me aren’t exactly sure about somebody, we make it up. We can strengthen any argument by expanding on something either real or not real.” (p. 175)
Many of Dylan’s fans have idolized him. It’s difficult to understand Dylan’s disdain, referring to some of his more over-zealous followers as “dropouts”, “druggies”, “moochers”, “goons”, “rogue radicals”, “unaccountable-looking characters”, “gargoyle-looking gals”, “scarecrows”, “stragglers looking to party, raid the pantry”, “gate-crashers”, “spooks”, “trespassers”, “demagogues”…; ”I wanted to set fire to these people.” (p. 116-117)
Dylan’s inability to relate to or even appreciate the fans who supported him was evidently an ongoing issue throughout his career. Of touring with Tom Petty in the 1980s, Dylan writes the following:
“I’d see the people in the crowd and they’d look like cutouts from a shooting gallery, there was no connection to them – just subjects at random.” (p. 152)
“I definitely needed a new audience because my audience at that time had more or less grown up on my records and was past the point of accepting me as a new artist and this was understandable. In many ways, this audience was past its prime and its reflexes were shot. They came to stare and not participate. That was okay, but the kind of crowd that would have to find me would be the kind of crowd who didn’t know what yesterday was.” (p. 155)
At one point Dylan writes about “different anachronisms thrust upon me”:
“Legend, Icon, Enigma (Buddha in European clothes was my favorite) – stuff like that, but that was all right. …Prophet, Messiah, Savior – those are tough ones.” (p. 124)
Dylan should remember it’s not what someone’s called that matters, but what they answer to. Dylan is not immune to being star-stuck. Consider his reaction after listening to Woody Guthrie recordings:
“I was going to be Guthrie’s greatest disciple. It seemed like a worthy thing. I even seemed to be related to him….I knew little about Woody. I wasn’t even sure he was alive anymore…One thing for sure, Woody Guthrie had never seen nor heard of me, but it felt like he was saying, ‘I’ll be going away, but I’m leaving this job in your hands. I know I can count on you.’“ (p. 246)
Dylan writes, “Woody made each word count.” (p. 247) Unfortunately this is a claim Dylan cannot make for himself. Dylan went on to elaborate on his glorification of Guthrie:
“Woody’s songs were having that big an effect on me, an influence on every move I made, what I ate and how I dressed, who I wanted to know, who I didn’t.” (p. 247)
Dylan also recounts the extraordinary efforts he made to visit Woody in the hospital, his treks through knee-deep swamps to get to Guthrie’s house, etc..
Rather than seeming like the modest, humble person I wanted to believe Dylan was, his autobiography is the story of an ambitious person who achieved a degree of success, felt dissatisfied, and became first complacent, then bitter and confused. There is no denying Dylan’s songwriting talent and creativity, but, although he refers to Joan Baez as “lucky” (p. 255) he seems to give no credit whatsoever to his own luck or good fortune, as if his success were entirely orchestrated (at times seemingly calculated if not contrived) by his own hand. He never seems to understand that there were other artists around who may have been as good if not better than him, who may have worked harder, been smarter and more talented, but who never had the fortuitous circumstance of having encountered the right person who took an interest in them at the right time in their life. The entirely self-made man is a myth.
Success did not thrust itself upon Dylan unbidden. To the contrary, Dylan, seeming to regard himself as destined for success, is an opportunist who never seems to pass up a chance to advance his career. He’s constantly evaluating advantages and disadvantages, looking to capitalize or exploit any potentially profitable situation or connection. Recognizing these opportunities make him a savvy businessman, but also results in relationships being established or discarded based on their value to him in terms of advancing whatever his career goals were at the time. For someone who holds himself out as a keen observer of the human condition, he seems to have only a superficial grasp of other people’s lives: he doesn’t seem to form any real intimate bonds with others, the bonds he does form tend to be professional ones with other famous people, and there seems to be something eternally alien to him about the everyday lives of people that unsettles him. The result is Dylan comes across as a tourist, a sight-seer. Maybe this is why he refers to two very different events in exactly the same way: it was “sad news” when his 63 foot sailboat hit a reef in Panama (“an unwelcomed shock”, p. 163, he was nowhere near it at the time), and it was also “sad news” when he heard of the sudden death (heart failure) of former basketball player Pete Maravich. Dylan explained at length why the loss of the yacht was so emotionally traumatic for him. In response I found myself thinking, “Wow….this guy is really an idiot”.
Dylan’s constant comparisons of himself to other famous people are tiresome and irritating. He has a tendency to go on at length about how much he has in common with people he barely knew or never met, such as when he declares himself to be more like Joe Tex than like Johnny Carson because after Joe performed on Carson’s show, Joe left without being invited over to Carson’s couch to chat. Really? On about the last page of the book, after Dylan lists every famous person he can think of who, like him, had links to Minnesota (Roger Maris, Charles Lindbergh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Eddie Cochran, …) he adds, “I felt like I was one of them or all of them put together”. Earlier, when writing about the conclusion of his visit with Archibald MacLeish, Dylan wrote:
“I wondered, now, whether all of us – MacLeish, me and everyone else – had been inscribed and marked before birth, given a sticker, some secret sign. If that’s true, then none of us could change anything….If the secret sign thing is true, then it wouldn’t be fair to judge anybody.” (p. 130)
Not quite sure if this is an example of naval gazing, a meager attempt at profundity, or if Dylan just didn’t think through what he’s trying to articulate.
Comparing himself to Charlie Daniels (whose work he refers to as “pure genius”), Dylan writes:
“I felt I had a lot in common with Charlie. The kind of phrases he’d use, his sense of humor, his relationship to work, his tolerance for certain things. Felt like we had dreamed the same dream with all the same distant places. A lot of his recollections seemed to coincide with mine. Charlie would fiddle with stuff and make sense of it….Years later Charlie had a band in his hometown called The Jaguars who had made a few surf rockabilly records, and although I hadn’t made any records in my hometown, I had a band, too, about the same time. I felt our histories were somewhat similar.” (p. 136)
Didn’t MOST young musicians have bands in their “hometowns”?
Comparing himself to Jim Dickenson:
“He’d started out playing the same time as me, in about ’57 or ’58….His influences were jug band and early rock-and-roll, same as mine….He had kids, too, that played music just like some of mine did.” (p. 215) (Jim, Bob, and tens of thousands of other people had those things in common.)
Comparing himself to Joan Baez, Dylan writes:
“To think that she was probably more like me than me would have seemed a little excessive.” (p. 255)
After referring to Baez as Scottish and Mexican, more confusion ensues when he compares her to “Cleopatra living in an Italian palace”.
Describing St. Joseph’s Church in Louisiana, Dylan writes it’s “modeled after one in Paris or Rome”. Apparently he couldn’t decide between two European capitals that have very different architectures. Describing a bed and breakfast he stayed at, Dylan refers to it as a:
“…cottage that was behind a pillared plantation house with sculpted studded garden paths, a cream stucco bungalow that had a certain charm – stood like a miniature Greek temple.” (p. 202)
Britain’s Cotswolds may be described as “charming”, but a Greek temple?
Speaking of Andrew Jackson (who lived from 1767 to 1845), Dylan admiringly writes:
“At least he didn’t drop bombs killing civilians and innocent children for the glory of his nation’s honor.” (p. 198)
Not to take any credit away from Andrew Jackson, it’s a pointless academic exercise to speculate on whether he would have used bombs or not: the technological capability didn’t exist during his lifetime.
Describing a motorcycle ride in Louisiana, Dylan writes:
“On the west side of the road there’s cattle grazing and egrets, herons with slender legs standing in shallow bays – pelicans, houseboats, roadside fishing – oyster boats, small mud boats – steps that lead to small piers running out into the water”.
Were the cattle grazing in the ocean? Not to be trivial, but in using words to create a visual image, Dylan doesn’t do the reader any favors. It’s almost incomprehensible that a person who is as careless with words as Dylan is would ever consider writing a book.
Maybe Dylan got paid by the word, or there was undue pressure to meet a publication deadline. The resulting book seems like a manuscript that still needs quite a bit of polishing, that just isn’t “ready”. What does the phrase “an ambience of texture and atmosphere” (p. 190) mean? Isn’t “ambience” and “atmosphere” basically the same thing?
On working with someone in the recording studio, Dylan writes:
“I know that he wanted to understand me more as we went along, but you can’t do that, not unless you like to do puzzles. I think in the end, he gave up on that.” (p. 218)
Even people who like to do puzzles will probably give up on understanding Dylan about one-third of the way through this autobiography. Dylan inexplicably seems to be at his most incomprehensible when he’s discussing the milieu he is most familiar with: music. Again during his encounter with the proprietor of a rural shop in the 1980’s, Dylan writes, “Sun Pie had mentioned Elvis to me, said that Elvis was an the store woman, an enemy of democracy. At the time it sounded like crackpot talk, but at the same time I wasn’t so sure.” (p. 220) And around the same time, about working in the recording studio, he writes: “On the record, I had to make spur of the moment decisions which might not have had anything to do with the real situation.” (p. 221) If decisions weren’t based on the “the real situation”, what were they based on? Were they completely arbitrary and based on absolutely nothing? How does that work? Is a coin flip a “decision”? Nonetheless, Dylan says, “When the record was all added up, I hoped it would meet head on with the realities of life.” (p. 217) I suppose if it did, it would be the result of coincidence.
Speaking of up and coming rap musicians, Dylan writes:
“They were beating drums, tearing it up, hurling horses over cliffs. They were all poets and knew what was going on. Somebody different was bound to come along sooner or later who would know that world, been born and raised with it, be all of it and more. Someone with a chopped topped head and a power in the community. He’d be able to balance himself on one leg on a tightrope that stretched across the universe and you’d know him when he came – there’d be only one like him.” (p. 219)
Considering Dylan’s strongly professed objections to being put on a pedestal, to being labeled a “Prophet, Messiah, Savior” (p. 124), his characterization of what he expects the next big music star to be sounds eerily god-like. Even given his penchant for apocalyptic language, Dylan describes the meteoric rise of a music performer with language usually reserved for the second coming. His description seems like a vain, pathetic attempt to make himself relevant in the musical landscape of modern times; it’s embarrassing and almost painful to read.
In one of the most abstruse, muddled bits of writing in the entire book – or indeed that I’ve encountered anywhere -- Dylan verges on psycho-babble in what seems to be an attempt to describe a revelation he had in the 1980s concerning the direction he decided his musical career should take going forward. I’m not sure he understands what the word “abstract” means, but his use of it here only adds to the confusion, and what follows could probably better serve as a description of the effects of some mind-altering substance:
“Prior to this, things had changed and not in an abstract way. A few months earlier something out of the ordinary had occurred and I became aware of a certain set of dynamic principles by which my performances could be transformed. By combining certain elements of technique which ignite each other I could shift the levels of perception, time-frame structures, and systems of rhythm which would give my songs a brighter countenance, call them up from the grave – stretch out the stiffness in their bodies and straighten them out. It was like parts of my psyche were being communicated to by angels. There was a big fire in the fireplace and the mind was making it roar. The veil had lifted. A tornado had come into the place at Christmastime, pushed all the fake Santa Clauses aside and swept away the rubble.”
The thought of having spent money for this book makes me feel swindled.
There’s only two things left to add:
Concerning the three options for what to do with my copy of this book now that I’ve read it (keep it at home, put it in storage, or get rid of it), my decision is an unqualified GET RID OF IT. I can’t in good conscience make it available for other readers to be subjected to. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I’ve disposed of in over forty years in a manner that has resulted in them being unavailable for circulation: it’s a dubious distinction.
And, finally, to answer the hypothetical question of whether I intend to read volume 2 of “Chronicles” (if it’s ever published), the unequivocal answer to that is no. Absolutely NO.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
tristan child
I have been a big Dylan fan for 30 years and now I find from reading his book that he looked on his followers with distain and wished that they would leave him alone. He just wanted to be a family man. Well, he gets his wish with me. If you want to know anything about Dylan, you won't find it in this book. It's just a long litany of name dropping which leaves you without any insight about what Dylan was thinking when he wrote his greatest lyrics...Maybe, he wasn't thinking at all. If he was, he sure doesn't want his fans to know his thoughts and provocations for what he wrote.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kari hilwig
This man's life is BORING. Don't buy this book. Not even the graphic description of his sex life saved this book. There were a few moments. The bit where he talks about chasing some guy's dog with a knife was funny but unnecessary.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
edward jones
Around every 20 pages, there's a phrase that's faintly reminiscent of the early years, the intellect that penned "it's allright, ma" etc. But so much of what he claims happened is just not reality. For instance, if you went by his words, from the late 60s onward he'd take off years at a time to play with his kids on the living room floor, go camping, rafting, etc a big stay at home family man, presumably married to the same woman, etc.
That's all false; so how much else is false? Basically, he's lived in a cocoon for 4 decades surrounded by yes people, and it's had the result you'd predict. It's actually more a work of fiction, or one of those invented autobiographies of a historical figure by a current author where everyone knows it's bogus.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The book is a dry hustle. If what you are interestd in is a list of persons the author knew, this is the book for you. He mentions literally hundreds of "famous" names: people he either met, heard singing on records, or read books by, and he gives a one or two line description of each. Apart from that, and the message "I knew what I wanted to do!" there is little else of substance in the book. True, there is a cleverly-turned phrase or two here and there, but essentially there is nothing of value here. If this book were written by anyone other than Dylan, it would never have been considered for publication.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I have not read the book though I did pick up the Dylan issue of Newsweek and also the USA Today. I have no authority to write a "review" but as a fellow human I have to applaud Bob for finally shedding light on his world weary travels and I am sure I will enjoy reading of his exploits, life and loves though he and I may never meet.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
katie mclean
For what I payed I was hoping for more. Fore instance it doesn't have the original cover and the library stickers and dirt are still all over. CD condition is a bit iffy but I haven't listened all the way through yet so, we'll see. Wish I had a better copy!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Dull, dull, dull. A rambling stream of consciousness that is totally self-centered. Oh, the burdens of fame! It is so demanding! And then my 40 foot sailboat was wrecked! Life is so unfair! Puhleez. He resents being the "voice of his generation" all the while he writes a book about it. I don't hate this book, but I don't like it. A good music book about people who also were "the voice of their generation" is Geoff Emerick's "Here, There & Everywhere" about the Beatles. It is a fun and fast read and you actually learn something about how it all happened and all fell apart.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
michelle leplattenier
The fact that this book was greeted with such universal praise by fans and critics alike serves to show what mediocre, feeble times we live in. I picked up this book expecting at least an interesting memoir of this man, but instead all I got was disjointed ramblings about people he knows and places he played.The only insights he gives into these people are that they were "deep", "profound", or "heavy". Sometimes it sounds like a teenagers essay. I had misgiving after about twenty pages, but as I read on I became more incredulous at how utterly dull, boring, and downright bad this book is. I have got to about page eighty now and I don't think I can read anymore. Dylan comes accross as a self-indulgent, humourless man with no personality. It is staggering that this book can be regarded so highly and it re-affirms the suspicion in my mind that rock music is much ado about nothing.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Dylan's prose in this book is full of "hip cat" babble and no substance. I actually began to laugh everytime he launched into his hip cat speak - which should qualify his memoir as a comedy work. A pitiful piece of work from someone trying to remain relevant.

I mean man this read is like a razor blade cuttin' lunch meat at the deli counter of hard life - walkin' down a road with no end or begining and heavy traffic all goin' the same direction. Sleepin' on a couch that is too hard and too short and was made that way just for you. Through my eyes it attacked my soul like fire burning hungry dogs that are tryin' to steal your refrigerator.

The book will appeal to Dylan sycophants, but everyone else can save their money.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
wendy chandler
Dear god, what a terrible writer this guy is (and always has been). From the garbage liner notes on Highway 61, to the unreadable Tarantula, to this pile of blathering inanity (Vol. 1? What a jerk. Why not wait until it's *finished* before selling it!) Face it, we're never going to get anything like the truth out of Dylan, and even if we were so lucky, it won't be presented in anything like a coherent manner. Dylan just sits down at a typewriter (or tape recorder, most likely, since this reads like listening to him talk) and proceeds to babble about the 60s (when he's not time-travelling into his married life or name-dropping dozens of people that no one cares about). If he's the "voice of a generation" then that generation is approaching senility.

Stick to your music, Bob. Preferably 1962-66. Because beyond that, you really don't have a damn thing to say.

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I am a member of a book club and someone chose this book as our inagural offering. I was unfamiliar with Bob Dylan and saw this as perhaps an opportunity to learn more about his life. After reading this book, I've come to the distinct conclusion that not only do I not know more about his life, I'm not entirely certain Mr. Dylan does either. There is no plot, no sequence of thought - just mind-numbing rambling which leads to nothing. It's almost as if his mind vomitted words and they somehow congealed into a published book. My sincerest wish is that "Volume Two" would not be foisted upon an unsuspecting world. If only it were possible to give it less than 1 star......
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
judy schwartz haley
Bob Dylan reveals himself as a talentless megalomaniac. I found it helped, for the half of the book that I forced myself through, to read it with the same intonation as Dylan's voice.

The book goes approximately like this: I woke up in Joe and Jan's apartment in Greenwich Village one frosty morning. I got up, and later, I wrote a folk song, just the way Woody and Leadbelly used to. When I was done, it was strong and direct and true and spoke of the heart of America, just like frosty mornings and Greenwich Village and apartments, so valid and insightful. Later they tried to make me be a savior or a messiah. I never wanted to be a savior or a messiah. I only wanted to write folk songs, strong and direct and true, and speaking of the heart of America. Robbie Robertson asked me once why I wouldn't be the spokesman for my generation. We were in the car when he asked, and I had to roll the window down and let the wind blow that question away.

And so on. If you still actually want to read the book, you have only yourself to blame.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
megan wise nail
I enjoy the music of Bob Dylan, but could not stand this book. I have not finished the first 100 pages and it is highly unlikely that I will be able to do any more reading. So far it seems nothing more then a list of people he knows/or knew and how great he is compared to them. The way he presents himself on paper, he sounds like an awful person whose ego is way to big. I never intend on buying anything of his again. If you want to read a good book, get Woody Guthrie's Bound For Glory. This book is a waste of money.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kristen avey
I confess I have read only the excerpt in Newsweek, but both the writing and the content were...pathetic. If only Bob had gotten some writer to supply him with such essentials as theme, context,or style.

He rants away on the same parnoid topics again and again with seemingly NO insight into himself, but lots of concern about the multitudinous OTHERS who are pressing in on him, threatening him, asking him for what he cannot give. Whew! And yet he manages to be very dull in the face of all this drama.

Here's one of my favorite lines: "This main meal of garbage had to be mixed up with some butter and mushrooms and I'd have to go to great lengths to do it."

If you like this line, you will probably love the book.
Please RateChronicles: Volume One
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