Last month, I finished reading the first (and to date, lone) volume of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles and found it an utterly engrossing read.
Anyone who listens to Dylan’s records will know him as a superior, talented wordsmith, but it was reading his prose – crackling, sparky, full of wit and sometimes surprising amounts of emotion – that finally really made me connect with him as a writer. His lyrics are evocative and poetic, as is his prose, but he has a real talent in the latter form for narrative exploration and character-developing.
Dylan wouldn’t do something so boring as a chronological account of his life and times. This doesn’t start in 1941 and end in 1961, with a promised second volume all about his ’60s heyday. Oh no. Instead, Dylan focuses on a few select periods of his life and career – his time spent performing in New York City before getting his record deal, his life in Woodstock with his family, but persecuted by the press and over-zealous fans, in the late ’60s, and his time in New Orleans in the late ’80s recording Oh Mercy with Daniel Lanois.
Each different time period is given due credit, due respect, and each one is made interesting and alive by the sheer power and accessibility of Dylan’s beautiful way with words.
I came away from this book feeling like I knew Dylan a little better, maybe understood his music a little better, and inspired to follow his example. As good as any rock star autobiography you’re likely to read.