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Like a Rolling Tome
on 4 September 2002
What, no review yet of this superb book?
If you're a fan of Bob Dylan, then there are no half measures, you can't just be a 'fan', you're also obsessed, besotted, infuriated, intrigued and alarmed by every move the man makes. Well this book is by a man besotted with Dylan, but not blindly so, and a man who has an incredible range of reference, cultural and literary and musical and plenty more, to bring to bear in his analysis of Bob's work. It's not a biography, not concerned with what Mr D has for breakfast, but a passionate and critical study of the man's huge body of work. Incorporating the text of the earlier editions, this huge updated third edition adds many substantial chapters to cover Dylan's output since the previous edition was published in 1982. (I hope this date is right because I'm doing this from memory and don't have the book to hand at this precise moment). The early chapters are devoted to Bob and the folk tradition, Bob and rock and roll, Bob and the literary tradition and so on. The new chapters include a major evaluation of the Blues and its relation to Dylan's work (as inspiration, as influence, as lyrical and musical wellspring), a fascinating exploration of Every Grain of Sand, a hilarious survey of books about Bob, a portrait of the growing relationship between the author and the album Time Out Of Mind (unfortunately Love and Theft is not covered in the book, though I'm mightily curious about Michael Gray's feelings about it) plus in depth analysis of Blind Willie McTell and the two solo acoustic 'covers' albums. And that ain't the whole of it. This book is intelligent, dense, bitchy, insightful, vigorous and rigorous, and completely and utterly compelling. As Gray says in his introduction, the book is a labyrinth, but it's a pleasure to get lost in it. As for the precisely annotated discographical information, for a devoted music obsessive such as myself it's enough to make your wallet ache and your bank manager despair with the prospect of all those brand new musical avenues it impels you to explore. (If Mr Gray is looking for a home for his music collection I'll willingly offer it a climate controlled home.)