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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Friday, December 05, 2008


According to book trade sources, another Dylan biography is on its way: Daniel Mark Epstein has reportedly sold The Ballad of Bob Dylan to HarperCollins in the US. He's a published poet, a librettist (for the comic opera Jefferson and Poe, music by Damon Ferrante) and the winner of several arts prizes. His published books include biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Nat King Cole. The painting is a 2004 portrait by Raoul Middleman.


Blogger inthealley said...

This may sound a bit ghoulish, but my view is that there is now little point in a further bigraphy until Bob dies, since there are now so many around. of varying quality. I have even largely given up reading books eschewing the autobiographical in favour of the critical, since the publication of Song & Dance Man Three, because the rest pale by comparison. All that tends to happen now is that the same material is slanted to a particul view ('Christian' for example), and I find this tedious rather than informative. So my answer is no - maybe there is a place for books dealing with detail, such as The Basement Tapes - if they could be done better, since these would inform summative works in the future.

6:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philip Guedalla quipped that biography is bordered by history, fiction, obituary and tedium. Dylan’s own boundaries seem to be shrinking though, leaving only the latter on the horizon. Is there an official count on how many Dylan biographies there are? I would estimate at least fifty too many.

For some time now, my Dylan reading has consisted of Song and Dance Man and Chronicles. One is a literary critique, the other is an autobiography. But I can still pick both up and, within seconds, find an insight or line that carries me happily onto the next paragraph. So bound by cliché are Dylan biographies that I tend never to pick them up at all.

It is all personal preference I know, and lots of people enjoy different takes on the varying chapters of his life. Personally though, I have no desire to read Greil Marcus’s bloated ramblings on “Like a Rolling Stone”, nor to hear people apply stories to the songs when the song itself is the story. Just once let me listen to a song as a piece of standalone art without having to consider what food was digested beforehand. Let me consider the words and their import and not what jacket he had on. Let me disappear into the song rather than sit beside him in the studio.

I know I am probably being overly cynical here but having read so many of the same stories over and over again, it becomes harder to remain enthusiastic. It is also slightly disconcerting that the levee of biographies broke in the last ten years, spurred on by Dylan’s critical and commercial renaissance. It lends these books a sense of bandwagon jumping rather than investigation, and of cashing in rather than commitment. I am sure that is unfair assessment in some cases, but it’s just another reason why I tend to forego these new biographies.

8:29 pm  

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