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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expanded new edition
As our hero enters his 70th year it is good to see a new and expanded version of this excellent biography. Shelton was there at the very beginning of Dylan's career and he writes compellingly from personal experience, not just from research sources. The last decade has shown that Dylan is far from ready for the retirement home with a series of impressive albums, the...
Published on 20 April 2011 by D. Faulkner

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I only wanted to read one book on Bob Dylan - and felt like I chose the wrong one
Author Robert Shelton is sometimes described as a Bob Dylan insider, given that he was a critic who "discovered" and befriended Dylan back in the early 1960s. Therefore, this biography could perhaps be described as semi-official, semi-authorised. The more relevant question is that given the author was a personal friend of Dylan and that Dylan was interviewed for this...
Published 4 months ago by Tristan Martin


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I only wanted to read one book on Bob Dylan - and felt like I chose the wrong one, 27 Aug 2014
By 
Tristan Martin (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Author Robert Shelton is sometimes described as a Bob Dylan insider, given that he was a critic who "discovered" and befriended Dylan back in the early 1960s. Therefore, this biography could perhaps be described as semi-official, semi-authorised. The more relevant question is that given the author was a personal friend of Dylan and that Dylan was interviewed for this book, does No Direction Home have sufficient objectivity - or at least, does Shelton manage to maintain distance and his critical faculties? The answer, in short, is a resounding no.

Having long been an admirer of Bob Dylan's work but never having read anything substantial on the man, I thought that this book would be a great place to begin, given the wealth of material on the subject. No Direction Home seemed fairly comprehensive and certainly Shelton has done his work, interviewing many people throughout Dylan's life and varied career. The disappointing thing about this book is that Shelton is too sympathetic to offer up any real criticism of his subject and consequently, this book veers in to hagiographical territory. Sure, you can cherry-pick the very occasional sentence in which Shelton offers the mildest of rebukes but on the whole, this book is relentlessly fulsome in its continual praise.

No Direction Home is subtitled, "The Life & Music of Bob Dylan" but Shelton is very selective on what facets of Dylan's life he reveals: like many of his contemporaries, Dylan had some involvement with illegal drugs. You wouldn't know it from reading this; you'd leave it thinking that Dylan likes a beer and the occasional glass of wine but otherwise he is a model of sobriety. Then there is Dylan's divorce: Shelton writes one sentence on "who slapped who" and then rhetorically asks if it is really important? If Bob Dylan physically assaulted his wife then I'd say yes, it is important. What of Dylan's fellow musicians: the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison are not mentioned, Elvis Presley's death gets a few sentences, as does the murder of John Lennon. Are we then to believe that these events were not particularly relevant or impactful to Dylan's life?

Ultimately, author Robert Shelton has no faith in his audience's ability to make judgements for themselves: we get page after embarrassing page attempting to convince us that Bob Dylan is a poet. Perhaps this "debate" was interesting back in the 1960s but from today's vantage point, surely we can decide for ourselves? Then there's Shelton's interpretation of Dylan's music. He does a great job in giving us the critical response of the time but then gives us far too much depth of his own judgement - the tarot card-based analysis of Desire is one of the worst examples of a writer going off the deep end with no benefit of a disciplined editor to rein him in.

As mentioned above, Shelton has interviewed many people for this book and certainly paints an interesting portrait of Bob Dylan and some of the musicians that were around him at the time, as well as the hangers-on (the making of Dylan's film, Renaldo and Clara, with the painfully embarrassing Allen Ginsberg, is particularly exasperating to read). However, No Direction Home is sorely in need of better editing. It has a broad chronological sweep but within each chapter, the time frame jumps around so much that sometimes it is a struggle to determine which decade we are meant to be in.

Robert Shelton wrote for the New York Times, so I have difficulty in believing that he is actually such a disorganised writer (the continuous inserting of Dylan lyrics and song titles in to the text is particularly clumsy). I can only assume that his enthusiasm for the subject has gotten the better of him and in writing such an in-depth book, he has lost sight, or at least perspective, of his subject. Ultimately, despite my huge admiration for the music of Bob Dylan and the appreciation of the lengths Shelton went in interviewing so many people, this book was ultimately unsatisfying.

Please note that this review pertains to the hardback, first edition, released in 1986.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expanded new edition, 20 April 2011
By 
D. Faulkner (U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As our hero enters his 70th year it is good to see a new and expanded version of this excellent biography. Shelton was there at the very beginning of Dylan's career and he writes compellingly from personal experience, not just from research sources. The last decade has shown that Dylan is far from ready for the retirement home with a series of impressive albums, the Chronicles autobiography, the Scorsese documentary - taking its title from this book - and with his excursion into radio-land with the wonderfully eclectic Theme Time Radio hour series.

This book is a timely and insightful review of the broader context of Dylan's life with many useful additions to the first edition.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Dylan book ever writen, 11 Dec 1998
By A Customer
A master in the day, Bob Dylan's story of his early coffee shop day up untill about the mid-80's. Robert Shelton in 1961 wrote a article for Dylan that help his music take off.Dylan went from the Village folk scene to performing in front of large crowds of people. This book shows the transition from a coffee shop to the big stage. While telling you a blow for blow story of Dylan's life right up untill the mid-80's. The story starts out close to Dylan and over the span of the novel it come more of a distant observer. This book summerizes the whole time period and makes Dylan's personality better known. His songs have more impact now that you understand his motives. I recomend reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My last Bob Dylan book?, 29 Jun 2013
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One of the first books on Dylan and it was good to read again. Its a big pity it was not updated - an opportunity lost. I thing I'm suffering from overkill with books on Dylan and it will be sometime before I try anything else.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not Zimmerman to Zimmer frame, 30 Jun 2011
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MJC Dines (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Huge, heavy, densely printed book, full of stuff I didn't know about RD (or RZ). Having liked most of his songs since the first album up to when he joined the Religion of the Month club, this is a fascinating account of how he got to where he is. I now understand why that album was called Highway 61 Revisited - and so can you if you buy this (unless you already know).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for true dylan fans, 2 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This book was so well written and planned. this book makes you feel as if you have been through many of Dylan's travels with him. It provides detailed childhood stories about dylan and him intimate relationships. I highly recommend this book for all dylan fans.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Biography of Bob Dylan, 23 Nov 2012
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Good. Came as described and on time.Great. Written by a close friend. The detail and trust is rivetting. Great illustrations too.Kindle is great for me as my eyes are not good and you can increase the font.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and yet Personal, 2 April 1998
By A Customer
You must be interested in Dylan, as both a folk artist and a renegade, to take on this lengthy biography. If you are though, Shelton provides you with almost a Bible of Dylan from 1941 in Duluth, MN to 1985 in NYC - through all his different stages, his changing emotions, his passions - and of course his music. Getting into Dylan can be intense but he'll rumble your soul and twist your head a couple times so you get to see whats all around you. His influence on music and society is absolutely far-reaching. This book is excellent!!!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...and he just walked along, alone With his guilt so well concealed And muttered underneath his breath “Nothing is revealed”, 27 Mar 2014
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A tender and (relatively) balanced portrait of a lonely, shy man who inadvertently changed the world. The writing of the author is littered with clumsy references to songs, which irritates, but the content makes up for the shortcomings of the prose. A friend to the subject, Shelton is given first-rate access to people from family to Echo and most importantly to Dylan himself. The book covers up until Street-Legal which means that it can go into depth for information that is usually overlooked, yet as detailed as the book is, principle figures such as Sara Dylan and the protagonist remain elusive and you leave the book having learned much and nothing…for all that is said so much is left unsaid, so much we’ll never know, and frankly, other than the musical influences of Dylan and what drives his work, it is really none of our business.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A portrait can never be finished; it can only be abandoned", 25 Feb 2014
edited to be as close to Shelton's vision as possible, this revised edition of No Direction Home should be your first point of call if you're craving a deeper insight into Dylan, the man and his music. Shelton, famous for being the first critic to champion the singer, is also the only critic who became one of Dylan's friends, meaning he saw things others did not and understood things that others never could. that's not to say all the mysteries are solved, just who Bob Dylan is or was remains a far from easily answered question, even for his friends, perhaps even for the man himself. but for a compelling account of Dylan's career and life from the beginning to Desire then you're unlikely to find anything better. brilliantly written, insightful and a testament to one of the best writers who has ever lived.
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No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan
No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan by Robert Shelton (Paperback - 19 Jun 2003)
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