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on 20 April 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2014
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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on 11 December 1998
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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on 29 June 2013
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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on 30 June 2011
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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on 2 October 1998
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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on 23 November 2012
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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on 11 March 2016
essential reading for all Dylan fans even though it's taken me a long time to get round buying it ! a very good book..
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on 8 June 2015
An absolute standard text in a revised edition. Well worth the investment.
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on 2 April 1998
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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