Dylan’s Chronicles

As you may have seen by now, the first volume of Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles: Vol. 1, was a finalist for, but did not win, the National Book Critics Circle award for biography.

I bought the book the day it was released. While it was an enjoyable read, it was also uneven. Moreover, I wonder how much of is accurate and how much make-believe. Dylan is renowned for making up stories about himself and his background. As he says in the first chapter of the book, most of what he told the PR people from Columbia Records in his first meeting with them was “pure hokum — hophead talk.”

There are occasional lines in Chronicles that make you wonder if the book isn’t to some extent more of the same. (“What did I owe the rest of the world? Nothing. Not a damn thing. The press? I figured you lie to it.”). I truly don’t know how much of the book is fact, how much is fiction and how much is a blend of the two. As a result, while Chronicles is a worthwhile read, I certainly didn’t consider it an award winner.

So thank you for writing the best songs
Thank you for righting a few wrongs
You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus
But you stepped down and you sang to us

Joan Baez on Dylan in “Winds of the Old Days”

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