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Book Review: Chronicles: Volume 1 by Bob Dylan

I don’t usually read memoirs, or much non-fiction of any type, but I was curious about reading Bob Dylan’s book after he (controversially) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the time, I read positive reviews of his story of his arrival onto the music scene in New York.

However, I’m torn about Chronicles: Volume 1. While much of Dylan’s writing is rhythmic and almost mesmerising, I struggled to get through his book.

Much of the story recounts the people that Dylan met when he arrived in New York. He writes about the record label execs and the club sometimes eccentric club owners he meets. There is the owner of a folk music shop in Greenwich Village and the other musicians who inspired his songs. While there is some interest in reading about the artists Dylan encountered and the times in which he gained his foothold, I found that there was too much focus on individuals who played bit parts in his story. This might not be a problem for Dylan’s contemporaries, who would be more likely to recognise the musicians and songs about which Dylan wrote, but, for me, many had little meaning or interest.

The main beauty in Dylan’s work lies in his words and phrasing, which is so evident in his songs, but also in his book. And it’s interesting to read prose from someone primarily known for their song writing.

So, while I am no new devotee of memoir as a result of Dylan’s book, I will continue to enjoy his music, with a little more knowledge of its genesis.

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