Top critical review
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Cold and condescending. What about the music?
on 28 October 2002
I read this biography not just because I'm a big and longstanding fan of Bob Dylan, but also because of the strength of many of the accolades the book has received, both in Amazon and elsewhere. I couldn't have been more disappointed. The biography is clearly well-researched, despite Heylin's proud but unconvincing defence of the fact that he has never met Dylan. However, the biography lacks any warmth or feel for Dylan and the huge and deep contribution his music has made to modern culture. The book comes down with detail, but much of it is incidental and irrelevant. Moreover, Heylin manages to be condescending and irritatingly opinionated, especially and unnecessarily so about other biographers. His constant use of direct quotes merely breaks the flow of the text and rarely adds much. Normally, when one reads a biography of a musician and songwriter who has played such an important part in one's own life, and especially when the author admits to being fan, one would expect to be driven back to the music with renewed vigour and interest. In the case of Heylin's biography this didn't happen. I can still recall the huge impact that some of Dylan's albums had on my life, and music more generally, but this does not come across in Heylin's often flat and at times self-important writing style. While there is plenty of gossip around Dylan's fondness for women, drugs and drink, few original insights are offered about his music. Indeed, Dylan's music is hardly assessed at all, apart from occasional references to the views of other critics. Dylan's life and music deserve a lot more.