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Mrs Dalloway (Wordsworth Classics)
Mrs Dalloway (Wordsworth Classics)
by Virginia Woolf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel to lose yourself in, 10 Feb 2011
The name Virginia Woolf likely conjures the image of an important cultural figure, a significant writer, but one with an intimidating reputation. As such, readers may either stay away from her work or approach cautiously, expecting something wilfully obscure and deliberately difficult.

The truth is that, yes, Woolf's writing can be a challenge and the reason for that is mostly because it's so unique. We're used to plot- or character-driven novels, where things happen in some semblance of order, where there's narrative resolution, and often where you can dip in and out with ease. The stream-of-consciousness style that Woolf employs in "Mrs. Dalloway" (1925) shirks conventions and as a result it can be a disorientating read.

But that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable. The thing to remember with "Mrs. Dalloway" is that it is not a plot-driven novel. As other reviewers have accurately stated, this is not a page-turner, not something to marvel at all the ingenious plot twists and turns. So why read it? The main thing I took away from "Mrs. Dalloway" was how much about the interior it is, and consequently how personal and intimate it feels. It's not "Mrs. Dalloway went up the stairs and sat down." It's all about inner thoughts, inner feelings, and as such this stream-of-consciousness style works wonders. We don't think in ordered sentences most of the time; our thoughts flit from one thing to another and we set off trains of thought and memory and memory association. The same is true of the writing in "Mrs. Dalloway"; there will sometimes be unexpected interjections and abrupt changes of thought process, which mimics our real human thought process.

Of course, action does take place - there are walks in the park, collecting flowers, sewing - but it's all filtered through the interior. It can be confusing to determine who is "speaking," as Woolf jumps between characters and they rarely have clearly-defined voices of their own, but that way it does feel more natural somehow. One moment we could be "in" Mrs. Dalloway, then she thinks of Peter Walsh, and suddenly we're "in" Peter Walsh, so to speak. It's a unique approach; much has been made of the revolutionary style. Whether it's relevant as 'revolutionary' today is immaterial - it simply works, regardless of whether Woolf originated it or not, and regardless of when it was written.

The other main element to note is Woolf's writing style itself. Her use of language is rich and beautiful, and she articulates feelings in a vivid, imaginative way that the reader can fully comprehend and relate to but still marvel at the imagery she is using. There will be occasional metaphors or sentences that stop you in your tracks for a while because they're so well-drawn and creative, yet entirely in keeping with the mood and feel of the novel. (It also must be said that Woolf does have a sense of humour, and some of her observations and interjections here are softly funny and sometimes wonderfully absurd.)

It's a book really to lose yourself in. By that, I mean: don't come into it with expectations, and certainly don't come into it looking forward to something exciting and plot-based. The power is in the writing style, the intimacy, and the accurate portrayal and evocation of human thought process. One can read into the symbolism and exploration of WWI, mental illness, sexuality, and human disappointment, and they're intrinsic, but even if you don't consider the symbolism or the cultural context it's still a novel that weaves a spell, slowly but powerfully.

Sometimes, it's a taste thing: some people will 'get' the book and enjoy it, and some won't, and one person is no better for 'getting' it and vice versa. But what I would say is that if you just allow yourself to get into the novel, and allow the novel room to breathe, and don't compare it to other, more conventional texts, it might just surprise you. I was surprised sometimes how much I was enjoying it. Woolf certainly requires more concentration and effort on the part of the reader than some other authors, but the ultimate rewards can be very satisfying.

Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition (UK Version) [DVD]
Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition (UK Version) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kyle MacLachlan
Price: £34.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite box set - television at its finest, 4 Feb 2011
I had never seen "Twin Peaks" until two weeks ago, compelled to purchase the Definitive Gold Box Edition set solely on the strength of customer reviews and the knowledge of its cultural significance. I knew nothing about the plot, beyond the fact that it opens with the murder of a teenage girl and stars Kyle MacLachlan, and had no real idea what to expect (although I am a big fan of David Lynch's films Blue Velvet [1986] [DVD] and Mulholland Drive [DVD] [2001].) I was not disappointed. "Twin Peaks" is incredibly addictive; it's as quirky and mind-bending as some of Lynch's best film work, but there's a core of relatable human truth, and it effortlessly fuses the high art and cinematography of film with the fast pace of television.

While the quest to solve the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is the driving force of the series, there are numerous subplots as well, and such is the wonderful amalgam of thriller, mystery, and soap opera parody that one begins to suspect almost everyone, and wonder how the subplots relate to the bigger storyline. Many ultimately don't particularly have much to do with the Palmer storyline, but the guessing game is half of the fun. There are far too many memorable scenes and episodes to mention, but the first half of the series (that is, all eight episodes of the first season and the first half of season two) set a high benchmark for television. The episodes are beautiful, funny, scary, and bizarre all at once, and it's an intoxicating mix. There's just the right amount of tension, drama, and light relief, and it's the feel of the show that leaves the lasting impression - the dominant red and wood colouring, the settings (the diner, the log-cabin feel of the Great Northern Hotel, the mill), and of course Angelo Badalamenti's haunting music that weaves in and out. Each character is developed beautifully, and even the supposedly more minor players have pleasing depth.

Bowing to pressure from the ABC network, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost reveal the identity of the killer midway through season two and afterwards there is a palpable change of feel; it is as if the air is being let out of a tyre. The remaining episodes are of high quality, and more often than not continue to retain the distinctive "Twin Peaks" feel, but some of the stories - James' flirtation with a mysterious woman when he leaves Twin Peaks, for one - are closer to real soap opera than the sophisticated soap parody of the first half of the series. It's to the writers' credit that the characters were developed enough for them to warrant continued viewing, and certain characters - especially Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell - really shine. The unique "Twin Peaks" of the first season returns in the last few episodes, with the episodes feeling tighter, more creative, and intense. The finale is as bizarre and beautiful as one would hope; it leaves a few threads hanging but makes a suitable finish at the same time.

This box set is wonderfully produced - each episode looks fresh and high quality, and the quality of the remastering is especially evident when you watch the non-remastered Log Lady intros before each episode. (There is a curious scene in one late season two episode however, with Audrey Horne and Windom Earle in the library, which appears not to be remastered and stands out.) The extras are often excellent - an almost two-hour 'Making Of' documentary series divided into the making of the pilot, the first season, the second season, and the music, and featuring insightful interview snippets with cast and crew. There's also a fun bar-set interview with Lynch, MacLachlan, Madchen Amick (Shelly), and crew member John Wentworth, a 20-minute documentary about the "Twin Peaks" fan festival, MacLachlan's monologue and sketch from a 1990 episode of "Saturday Night Live," extensive photo galleries (including images of all 76 "Twin Peaks" trading cards!), a collection of promo trailers (and an advert for a "Twin Peaks" t-shirt), and a collection of little audio features where Lucy and Andy among others deliver news from the series (totalling 22 minutes.) The extras all add to the magic of the box set.

I would heartily recommend "Twin Peaks" to anyone who is interested in original, creative television. It's quirky and offbeat in the most imaginative, beautiful way possible, but also possesses familiar, identifiable human values that are so essential in a recurring television show. It's incredibly well-drawn and well-realised, and even the second half of season two, which appears to have lost much of the tension and intensity of the first season, is pretty sophisticated and enjoyable. I came into "Twin Peaks" effectively 'blind,' took a risk on a quite-expensive-looking box set for a show I had never seen and knew very little about, and it's a decision I do not regret. Usually once I have watched a TV show I have enjoyed, I will put it aside and resolve to watch it again in a few months, maybe a year. With "Twin Peaks," I already want to go back to the beginning and watch again, such is its unique, seductive, addictive allure. Twenty years on from its original run, "Twin Peaks" remains a high watermark in television.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 3, 2011 11:22 PM BST

Just Kids
Just Kids
by Patti Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patti and Robert's story told, beautifully, from the heart, 30 Jan 2011
This review is from: Just Kids (Hardcover)
"Just Kids" is quite simply one of the most beautiful, heartfelt memoirs I have ever read. Firstly, it must be said that it's not a straightforward Patti Smith autobiography and you won't find many in-depth behind-the-scenes accounts of her rock stardom here; by the same token, the reader really does not need to have much knowledge of either Smith's work or that of Robert Mapplethorpe to enjoy the book - such is her skill at tenderly telling the story of an intense and incredibly loving, lasting friendship.

The book charts Smith's departure from the monotony of working in a New Jersey factory to seek the stimulation of the artistic hub of New York City. A chance encounter with a young man of the same age and aspirations, Robert Mapplethorpe, in the Summer of Love sets them both on an intertwining journey. We follow them from place to place: from their small apartments, funded by Patti's job at a bookstore and Robert's odd jobs, which form the bedrock of their artistic vision - poetry is created there, photographs are taken and collages are made, and they navigate the simultaneously harsh and beautiful world of the city together; to the Chelsea Hotel, where Patti is entranced by the curious, fascinating cast of characters who walk through the door; to the loft space they share where Robert's creativity blooms; to Patti's solo pilgrimage to France to pay her respects to Baudelaire and Rimbaud and Jim Morrison.

Patti and Robert's relationship is presented as a complex one; it's one of love throughout, but morphs from romantic love to a deep friendship with a brother-sister connection. Smith is best known for her searing, imaginative song lyrics and poetry, but her prose is absolutely gorgeous, accessible but poetic and beautiful all at once. She writes with refreshing honesty and objectivity about her responses to their changing situations, including Robert's evolving sexuality and creative expression, and you get the sense of a warm, wise woman from the first page to the last. Such is Smith's subtle skill, and razor sharp evocation of the sights and sounds and smells of the city, that you feel like you know all the people she is writing about. It's incredibly vivid and well-drawn and authentic. The final pages, where Patti jumps ahead almost fifteen years in time to the late '80s, are heartbreakingly sad but beautiful as she writes of Robert's final years, stricken with AIDS.

Smith explains that she promised Robert that one day she would tell their story; "Just Kids" fulfils that promise and in doing so reveals Patti Smith to be a writer of exquisite detail and heart. It's a book about Patti and Robert, not Patti's rock career, or marriage to Fred 'Sonic' Smith, or '90s renaissance. It's like a love song in word form and doesn't try to be anything other than the story of a lasting relationship. Albums like Horses have sealed her musical reputation, but "Just Kids" is right up there with her best, most beautiful, and most important work. Highly recommended.

The Secret Adversary (Tommy & Tuppence Chronology)
The Secret Adversary (Tommy & Tuppence Chronology)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing introduction to Tommy and Tuppence, 15 Jan 2011
I came to Agatha Christie's second novel, "The Secret Adversary," as a huge fan of her Poirot and Miss Marple series but without any knowledge at all of Tommy and Tuppence. I had heard of the 1980s TV series, "Partners in Crime," but had never seen it, and came to this novel with no expectations.

As such, I found myself utterly engrossed by the story. It shares similarities with Poirot and Marple in the sense that the pace is quick, the plotting of the crimes are sophisticated, and many of the London settings are lavish. But rather than a murder mystery/detective story, "The Secret Adversary" leans closer to the spy thriller genre but with an unmistakable Agatha Christie twist. I didn't read it as a parody, highlighting how well it works on its own merit. One might argue that a lot of the plot twists are based purely on coincidence, but I was pleasingly kept guessing until the end.

Tommy and Tuppence as characters are thoroughly likeable, and I found the dialogue in this novel sparkier than in some other Christies. It's alternately funny, silly, sinister, and exciting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. For Poirot and Marple fans who have not delved into the world of Tommy and Tuppence, I'd definitely recommend it - reading it after a Poirot, for instance, it feels enticingly fresh and entertaining. After its publication in 1922, Christie was encouraged to return to her Poirot detective stories, but she revisited Tommy and Tuppence sporadically and I look forward to reading those subsequent instalments.

Lady Sings the Blues (Harlem Moon Classics)
Lady Sings the Blues (Harlem Moon Classics)
by William F. Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.97

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic, funny, eye-opening - Billie Holiday in her own words, 1 Jan 2011
Published in 1956 and ghost-written by William Dufty, Billie Holiday's autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues" was later made into an Oscar-nominated film and has perpetuated some of the myths surrounding Holiday's eventful life. But while Dufty may be ghost-writer, make no mistake that this is Billie in her own words. The streetwise phrases, the patois, the slang, it's all there. What emerges is a distinctive narrative voice. It is perhaps a cliche to say it reads like a diary, but more than any other autobiography I have read there's a real closeness, intimacy, and a complete lack of holding back.

So what, if these are Holiday's words, was Dufty's role? A writer and editor at the New York Post, Dufty was married to Billie's friend Maely and the book was written from conversations with the singer at the Duftys' New York apartment (as well as from previous interviews.) But it's so clearly Billie that you almost forget Dufty's involvement beyond editing and fashioning it into a presentable, readable state (but Dufty does deserve major credit for bringing the book to life.)

Billie comes across as tough and streetwise but with a heart of gold. There may be factual inaccuracies along the way (her mother and father are not believed to have married, and were a little older than the book states) but the voice is so vivid and absorbing. "Lady Sings the Blues" takes us from the poverty of her Baltimore childhood through her spell in a Catholic reformatory institution after she was molested as a child to the bright lights but harsh realities of Harlem, where Billie found herself in jail for prostitution and then became a surprise star on the Harlem club scene.

We learn all about the advent of her singing career, tempered by episodes of horrifying racism, ill-fated relationships, and heroin addiction that, after her one-year jail term in 1947-48, cost her lucrative spots in New York night clubs. In between there are numerous delightful episodes with a surprise cast of characters including Clark Gable, Sarah Vaughan, and Lana Turner, and asides about her views on drug addiction and the healthcare system of America compared to Europe. The chapter about her European tour in 1954 is one of the book's most heart-warming and heart-breaking at once; here is a woman filled with joy and excitement about going to Europe and finding herself genuinely surprised and delighted by the positive reception she gets, the warm-hearted fans, the knowledgeable critics, and the newspapers that do not skew her words.

It's a book I couldn't put down. Vivid and full of life to the last, it seems to echo Billie's policy of dusting herself off and carrying on. There's no preaching or self-pitying, and while the story is often unbearably tragic, Billie herself never comes across as a tragic figure. She's tough, she's smart, she's funny, but she's never tragic or miserable. In the end, it's a pretty inspirational story. The fact that she died only three years after its publication adds an extra poignant note to proceedings. It's difficult to get cold hard facts about a life as tangled and shrouded in mystery and myth as Billie Holiday's, but "Lady Sings the Blues" is a wonderful companion to her music and, with an enlightening introduction and short essay on the picks of her discography by critic David Ritz, this 50th anniversary edition is the way to go.

Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary artistic achievement, 2 Sep 2010
This review is from: Medulla (Audio CD)
Ever since 1997's Homogenic fairly shattered the common public image of her as an unusual, jovial sort of Icelandic pop pixie, Björk followed her artistic muse wherever it took her - and it took her to some wondrous, innovative places. With Vespertine, Björk created a hushed, micro wonderland of electronic bleeps and bloops, augmented by harps and celestas and glockenspiels. The accompanying tour included an Inuit choir and a string section.

Understandably, she wanted to strip things back for her next project - but Björk being Björk, it wasn't a simple case of going acoustic. Instead, she opted to craft an album based around the human voice and, aside from a couple of instruments (a piano here and there), it's entirely structured around the voice. Some songs are a cappella featuring choirs, some feature vocal samples, and others feature beat-boxing or Inuit throat singing. The effect is to create an album that feels rich and full at the same time as feeling extraordinarily organic and 'real'; the idea of an all-vocals album sounds bare and simple, but 'Medúlla' is really quite complex.

It has a reputation for being wilfully difficult, obscure, and somewhat ugly, but this is one of Björk's most haunting, beautiful, and perhaps surprisingly melodic works. With instrumental accompaniment and the production techniques of her earlier records, it's not hard to imagine some of these songs on Post, such is their vibrancy, energy, and colour. Songs that particularly stand out in this regard include "Mouth's Cradle" and "Triumph of a Heart," which replace what would have been (un)conventional instrumental backing with swooping choral effects, beat-boxing, and instrument-imitation.

The all-vocal approach yields varied results. Opener "Pleasure Is All Mine" is lush and romantic, the propulsive "Where Is The Line?" ranks among her most ominous and oppressive songs, and "Who Is It" is joyous pop beauty. The lush romance invigorates "Oceania," while "Desired Constellation" recalls some of the haunting, intergalactic beauty of 'Homogenic' and 'Vespertine.' There are also a couple of choral gems - "Sonnets/Unrealities XI" and, in one of the most exquisite moments of her career, the utterly sublime "Vökuró," based on an Icelandic poem, is mournful and melancholy and hopeful all at once. It also finds Björk hitting raw emotional nerves in her native Icelandic.

It's not all pretty though. There are a couple of strange, off-kilter interludes, the quasi-nursery sing-song of "Öll Birtan" and the wheezing "Mišvikudags" providing some reassuringly weird lead-ups to respective pop gems. Then there is the frankly ugly "Ancestors," but curiously there's a strange beauty and humour to Tanya Tagaq's intense throat singing wrapping around Björk's wordless improvisation. The Robert Wyatt collaboration "Suubmarine" treads the line between deeply unorthodox and heavenly gorgeous; it's as sublime and haunting as you would hope from a Björk-Wyatt collaboration, and its sinister atmospherics provides another album highlight.

As a concept in itself, 'Medúlla' is a unique experiment and a lofty, ambitious idea - and one which could easily have fallen flat. But Björk pulls it off with customary aplomb. It's an album that is bound to be divisive, but there's a lot of beauty to the record. Granted, it's not conventional beauty, and there's some strangeness and ugliness too to contribute to the aura of authenticity (and Björk's warts-and-all ethos), but to dismiss this record as a vanity project would be a big mistake. It's one of the key works of her career and we should be thankful that there are still "pop" artists like Björk who take such bold artistic risks. An extraordinary achievement.

4-Track Demos
4-Track Demos
Price: £7.42

4.0 out of 5 stars PJ Harvey at her roughest and most raw, 2 Sep 2010
This review is from: 4-Track Demos (Audio CD)
In the PJ Harvey discography, '4-Track Demos' comes after the release of two studio LPs, Dry and Rid Of Me, in 1992 and 1993, but it was recorded right in the midst of the two, in 1991 and 1992, and before the release of the Steve Albini-produced 'Rid of Me.' Its release came about after Albini expressed his love of the demo recordings, the fact that there were several unreleased songs in the mix, and also because Harvey's trio had disbanded and she was trying to work out her next move.

As a stopgap, '4-Track Demos' makes for wonderful, insightful listening. It is by some distance the ugliest, most difficult, and least immediately attractive Harvey album - but that's its draw. It revels in its roughness and its rawness. After all, these are exactly what they say on the tin - rough, lo-fi four-track demo recordings, always planned to be built upon in the studio. Partly the reason why it's such an interesting artefact is because Albini's production on 'Rid of Me' added much distortion, and the songs were transformed with bass and drums overpowering Harvey's voice.

Here, it's just Harvey and her electric guitar, complete raw power, with occasional background vocals, handclaps, and subtle bursts of violin and harmonica. In this early state, it's clear that Harvey's writing had developed even from 'Dry.' These songs are perhaps the most intense and energetic of her career, all blistering riffs and unorthodox vocal styles. The songs are simple and rough, and therein lies their strange beauty. It's fun to spot the differences between these demos and the finished versions - "Ecstasy" feels more intimate, "Rid of Me" is at a much faster tempo, "50ft Queenie" is out-of-control psycho-drama even without the pulsating bass and drums - and it's also a joy to hear the unreleased songs from the period, highlights of which include the humorous "M-Bike," haunting "Driving" and "Hardly Wait," and the obscene and oppressive "Reeling."

As an introduction to PJ Harvey, it will either pique your interest and make you sit up and take notice of this unique talent or it will initially make you run a mile. It's a record that might take a while to love. It's not worlds away from 'Dry' or 'Rid of Me' by any stretch of the imagination, and the recording quality is far better than you might expect from a demos album, but it's not a glossy studio production. These are rough, raw home demos and, as such, arguably find PJ Harvey at her most natural and authentic.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2012 10:27 PM GMT

Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PJ Harvey's raw, lo-fi debut still bristles with energy, 1 Sep 2010
This review is from: Dry (Audio CD)
After cutting her teeth touring Europe with friend John Parish's band Automatic Dlamini in the late '80s and early '90s, Polly Jean Harvey struck out on her own in 1991 and what became her debut album, 'Dry,' came together pretty quickly. Playing their first gig together in April of that year, Harvey (guitar), Rob Ellis (drums), and Steve Vaughan (bass) were soon signed to Too Pure and debut single "Dress" was released in October.

Dorset-born Harvey grew up on a rural sheep farm and listened to her parents' record collection, including Dylan, Howlin' Wolf, and big influence Captain Beefheart, and the growling, rasping blues riffs are all over 'Dry,' which was recorded on a small budget in the autumn and winter of 1991 in Yeovil, Somerset. Owing to the low budget and lo-fi approach, the sound quality on the album is not stellar but it lends it its own raw, ramshackle charm. It bristles with energy and is alive with raw blues-rock power.

One thing that makes the record so unique is the fact that Harvey's influences are often American but her music is positively English, with her simple vocal delivery and intriguing lyrical concerns. She doesn't shy away from singing about some unusual topics, and appropriates Biblical imagery in the tradition of the blues greats. Of all her records, 'Dry' has a simple, rustic sort of charm, perhaps because here, at 22, Harvey still sounds so young. The arrangements and production are basic, but they convey the mood of the material perfectly.

"Oh My Lover" is a stodgy, mid-tempo opener before the pace ratchets up with the spiky "O Stella" and portentous, superb lead single "Dress." The album's other single, "Sheela-Na-Gig," is similarly energetic and alive, but Harvey also shows how deft she can be on "Happy and Bleeding," which shows more of her writing finesse, and the violin-accented "Plants and Rags." Harvey continues to play much of the material in concert, including the anthemic power chord rock of "Victory" and the unorthodox one-two punch of "Fountain" and "Water," which look ahead to some of Harvey's writing developments over the next few years.

As far as writing and performances are concerned, 'Dry' isn't quite on the same level as some of Harvey's later records, but no other PJ Harvey record has the same simple charm. It's lo-fi, it's raw, but it's sparky and powerful and wonderfully alive. She would cement the intensity on her next album, Rid Of Me, but this debut announced the arrival of an exciting new talent.

The Secret Garden (Collins Classics)
The Secret Garden (Collins Classics)
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic story in a simple new volume, 30 Aug 2010
Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's classic "The Secret Garden" is a lovely story, one for the ages, and certainly one that can be read as easily by adults as by children (the wide vocabulary is pleasing to the older reader.) This new Collins volume includes a short introduction and a helpful glossary, but it's the story itself that of course is the big draw. It's about wonder, discovery, and youthful resilience and determination and a century on it remains a glorious classic. One small criticism of this edition might be that the text is rather small, but other than that, no complaints, especially considering the price.

Chronicles: Volume One
Chronicles: Volume One
by Bob Dylan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than I had hoped, 30 Aug 2010
This review is from: Chronicles: Volume One (Paperback)
I recently 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.

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