Bob Dylan In America Paperback – 26 May 2011
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"A panoramic vision of Bob Dylan, his music, his shifting place in American culture, from multiple angles. In fact, reading Sean Wilentz' Bob Dylan in America is as thrilling and surprising as listening to a great Dylan song" (Martin Scorsese)
"Among those who write regularly about Dylan, Wilentz possesses the rare virtues of modesty, nuance and lucidity. If I may extend the Moby-Dick metaphor just a little here, Wilentz is a whale watcher rather than a whale hunter. He is content to observe rather than possess" (Scotland on Sunday)
"Wilentz combines his deep musical knowledge with the skills of a fine historian to write one of the most important, insightful and revelatory books about America, its culture and its people as interpreted through the works of one of its greatest artists" (Irish Times)
"All the American connections that Wilentz draws to explain the appearance of Dylan's music are fascinating, particularly at the outset the connection to Aaron Copland. The writing is strong, the thinking is strong - the book is dense and strong everywhere you look" (Philip Roth)
"Bob Dylan in America is vital reading" (Christopher Bray Literary Review)
A brilliantly written and groundbreaking book about Dylan's music and its musical, political and cultural roots in early 20th-century America.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
So, Sean Wilentz bit off a lot. But fair play to him he went for it: Bob Dylan in America. That's putting it up to everyone alright.
And, with grace, wit, charm, erudition and skill, he largely succeeds.
Wilentz has wisely chosen not to write a biography nor a blow-by-blow explanation of the songs, rather his book aims to get a sense of what went into the ongoing making of Dylan. The frame of the book is chronological, but Wilentz moves forwards and backwards and sideways as needed (not unlike Chronicles in that sense). So, we get an overview of Aaron Copland and his role in the development of a distinctly American song that works well, if the links between Copland and Dylan feel a little shoehorned at times. He dips back to the turn of the 19th/20th centuries to unpick the tale of Delia (and Blind Willie McTell), he digs deep into the heart of the pre-Civil War American south to explain the development of sacred songs. His chapter on the Beats (and Ginsberg in particular) and Dylan is fantastic: evocative, insightful and exciting. He deals with Dylan's recent output head on and his writing it at its most forensic (by necessity) in dealing with the charges of plagiarism levelled at Dylan.Read more ›
It is written by a historian, a Dylan fan and someone clearly passionate about the history of American folk song. Not necessarily a combination guaranteed to produce a work with broad appeal. I spent most of the time asking myself where, in this avalanche of historical gravitas, did poor Bob come in. He was name-checked a few times in what I would call "a bit of a stretch". There are a few chapters actually devoted to him, the making of "Blonde on Blonde", the "Rolling Thunder Revue" and more recent stuff, but for the most part, it appeared that his name got shoe-horned at regular intervals into whatever other dissertation the author had going on. Choppy and uneven in the extreme.
There were some interesting bits, about the spread of popular music and a lot about Blind Willie McTell but, to be brutally frank, I have already forgotten most of what seemed less boring. There was perhaps 20% of the bulk of this tome that I found worth reading. I lent it to a friend and, when he returned it to me (that fact alone tells its own tale), his impressions were very similar to mine.Read more ›
One personal comment. The experience of the Halloween concert in 1964 in New York was arguably not so different from that of the British audiences in spring 1965. Even if the material was by then (over?)-familiar to BD, half the concert was unfamiliar to the audience and came as a stunning surprise. For anyone brought up on a diet of seeing groups performing their greatest (or only) hits, BD in the Don't Look Back tour was a revelation. In his description of 31/10/64, Wilentz brings it all back.And better than the sleeve notes on the CD, you can actually read it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best biographies of the great 20th Century bard and troubadour! Unfortunately I double clicked and bought 2! Anyway, that's my daughter's Christmas present sorted!Published 17 months ago by Peregrine Quartermaine
Was hoping for something more detailed, this is a good read but it's not as engaging as other Dylan books.Published on 31 May 2014 by David Douglas
I was interested to see the book had a much more lukewarm reception on US Amazon than UK. I agree with the 3-star reviewers on US Amazon (go to www.amazon. Read morePublished on 27 Dec. 2011 by Mark Twain
The "in America" aspect of this book refers primarily to where Bob Dylan fits in America's already established cultural heritage. Read morePublished on 30 Dec. 2010 by Lost John
It's informative, well written and an excellent read, I could write paragraphs praising this book but I'll limit my comment to this:
If you read only one book on Bob... Read more