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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Chronicles Volume 1
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on 9 October 2004
This is Dylan in top form. If you like his songs then you'll like this book. Elliptical, poetic, with a seemingly simple surface but touching the same complex depths his best songs do. I'm not sure how someone who didn't 'get' Dylan in the first place would respond to the book, but even so, as a narative it still holds up.
The zig zag chronological order is occasionally puzzling, but builds to create a satisfying whole,. To me, each chapter felt like a track in an Dylan album - each varying in intent and style, but with an overall consistent authorial voice binding them together.
Indeed, some chapters I liked more than others, just like with his albums, and there were occasional really clunky or over-ripe bits that as a long time Dylan fan I immediately forgave.
The early 60's Grenwich Village descriptions, however, which act as a kind of recurring theme throughout the book, particularly those of the people he openly acknowledges influenced him, show the author and his world in a clear light, with a kind of disarming honesty reminiscent of JD Salinger's Holden Caulfield - a reference I imagine Dylan wouldn't be entirely insulted by.
Through it all, Dylan's sense of personal ambition is presented matter-of-factly but doesn't jar. His sense of his own separateness and a profound respect for previous culture and other artists work, seems in character for one who was to develop into such a unique artist themselves.
In fact it's as an 'artist' that the picture of Dylan emerged to me with greatest clarity, with plenty of insights into the nuts and bolts of artistic creation - the gritty business of making stuff. (The fact that he built his own furniture in his first apartment and can remember the brackets and timber to this day seems entirely appropriate for an artist that I have always considered a supreme technician.)
It's along time since I read a book right through in one sitting and I am looking forward to the other (supposedly two) editions.
Yes, he's poet and, thank God, he didn't blow it.
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on 28 May 2017
This a Xmas gift but I may put it on my Xmas wish list too.
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on 19 June 2017
As always with Dylan, you're left wondering how much of it actually happened that way, and how much is him writing his own legend. That's not a bad thing, he tells a good tale and it's a good read. Much better than the other so-called biographies.
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on 15 August 2017
Terrific read, unassuming, simply told - just loved this.
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on 25 March 2017
Can't go wrong with Dylan.
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on 10 December 2014
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on 3 April 2017
This book is an interesting little read, because it’s Bob Dylan’s autobiography and the man has an impressive writing style that communicates his voice just as well as his songs do. It puts an interesting spin on the whole ‘celebrity autobiography‘ thing, because Dylan’s words have literary merit in their own right. In fact, didn’t he get awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?

His writing style is reminiscent of (and inspired by) the Beat poets, who were active at the same time that Dylan was starting out. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a photo somewhere of Dylan hanging out with Allen Ginsberg. But Dylan’s voice is easier, more friendly – like listening to a friend as you sit around a fire drinking cans of beer.

It’s also interesting how he approached it. It’s a true memoir, jumping backwards and forwards through time as the author follows different trains of thought but maintaining a steady narrative throughout despite this. And I find it entertaining that it’s volume one, even though no volume two has been released to date. I wonder whether he’s still working on it, or whether this is the best that we’re going to get.

Overall, this probably won’t mean much to the average person, but if you’re a Bob Dylan fan – or a fan of music in general – then there are few better reads for getting such an intriguing insight. It’s fascinating to see behind the creative process and to learn more about what makes him tick. The Daily Telegraph went so far as to call it “the most extraordinarily intimate autobiography by a twentieth-century legend ever written”. I agree with them.
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on 1 June 2017
As a Dylan fanatic i've always been on the lookout for this famed biography, and I found it here at a good price so I decided to give it a go. What you get is far more lucid and personal than may other rock autobiographies I have read (Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Carl Barat, Morissey, Johnny Marr) Compared to these there is much more of a sense of Dylan's internal voice, as he writes with a unique style, which is easy to understand but retains a sense of mystery. The book is also not especially focused on his career, don't expect detains about how he wrote certain songs. What you get here is an insight into his mind, as well as a very compelling coming of age story, charting Dylan's journey from playing all night for burgers in bars to seemingly unwelcome stardom and critical acclaim, all though the lens of one of the most enigmatic men in modern music.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 24 September 2014
I found this a little disappointing. i was expecting it to be more revealing and more interesting. Although at times I found it boring, I did finally read it all the way through. It did help me sleep! It certainly shows Dylan to be a thinker and widely read. it shows him to be quite a detailed observer of what is going around about it. I don't think it really demonstrates the inspiration behind some or indeed any of his songs oe the stories behind his albums. It does not say a lot about some of the characters you would expect him to say more about such as for example Johnny Cash. Interesting to read about his early days in New York but not enough is said. Interesting to hear what he says about some of the protest singers of his day and his frustration about being labelled a protest singer himself and expected to lead protests. Again, I dont think enough is said and it is all a bit shallow. Having read it, I dont think I know much more about him than i guessed or did before i read it. I found myself skipping passages or pages because he was in my view rambling just too much. The one word that really fits my thoughts on this book is "rambling". I am disappointed
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 August 2015
It would be stating the very obvious if I was to say that this is a beautifully written book, the author is, after all, Bob Dylan.

As the title 'Chronicles Volume One' also suggests, this isn't a full-scale autobiography, only really covering his life before, and at the start of his brush with fame in New York City in 1961, although he does talk about incidents which occurred after (devoting chapters to some of his later albums). Nor does it provide a chronological overview, and the text, largely a collection of short anecdotes which freely go back and forth, is very much like having a conversation with an old friend.

What it does offer is an atmospheric insight into the mind and origins of this legend of the folk-rock scene, and a real alternative to the typical memoirs of such public figures. Dylan hasn't written a 'tell-all' book, because he isn't that kind of person. Instead of reading juicy information about his private life, we are given a chance to discover how this very human man views the world.

Particularly interesting was to read about the wide range of influences and images of his early life and career, and the people he met along the way, many of whom he is very keen to sing their praises. As it doesn't flow chronically, the book is instantly given an interesting twist, as well as offering an insight into Bob Dylan's sources of inspiration and the creative progress, and it's a unique look into the musical culture of the 50s and 60s, from someone who has been in this business for over fifty years.

I am glad that I discovered this poetically written book recently, as I would now have been waiting eleven years for a 'Chronicles Volume Two' had I bought this following it's publication date. I do hope that we are allowed to get our hands on a sequel someday, because Bob Dylan's first volume of memoirs left me hungry for more. He's one of the world's greatest story-tellers for sure, and one of life's keen observers. The book contains no photographs inside.
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