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Chronicles Volume One

The first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir.

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From a brilliant and mysterious mind

  • Jun 27, 2010

             More a memoir than an autobiography, I love the casual tone and nature of Bob Dylan’s storytelling in Chronicles: Volume One describing the daily living and learning of his life and reflecting on his influencesAs implied by the title, Dylan chooses to reflect and reveal only choice portions of his vast and momentous music career.  This works itself out in a nonlinear arrangement of the chapters of his life and a lack of chapters concerning the fame and prolific success of his mid-sixties era.  
            The chapters he does choose are focused on the major points of learning in his life.  While fans will miss the discussion on Dylan’s mid-sixties trilogy, the intriguing and insightful reflections that are given will delight readers and create greater anticipation for the next volume.
            Dylan reflects on two learning points in his life—one based in New York and the other in New Orleans.  Dylan has great love for the characters and locales of these atmospheric cities and his descriptions of them are warm and caring.  Dylan’s sly phrasing awes and enchants just as it does in his poetry and music.  The women in New York have “double-barrel beauty” and when he falls into a sudden and striking love for a girl “the air was suddenly filled with banana leaves.”
            Reading the book, I was most interested in what Dylan had to write about his own influences in life and art.  His reflections were vast and interesting.  There were musical influences as could be expected but he seemed to be at least equally influenced by poets and author of literature.  Much of the book goes into detail how each of the poets and authors and their works affected and touched Dylan.  They range from Melville’s Moby-Dick to William Faulkner to Walt Whitman to Dylan Thomas.
            Dylan also spends two chapters going in depth on the writing and recording of two of his lesser appreciated and esteemed records: New Morning and Oh, Mercy.  These chapters bring the most personal and intimate reflections of the book.
            Dylan’s tone of personal reflection makes Chronicles an insightful look into one man’s approach to creating meaningful and lasting art, but even better than that, it provides a deeper look into the character of a man who has been exciting, mysterious and elusive through decades of public admiration. 

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More Chronicles: Volume One reviews
review by . January 26, 2010
Bob Dylan's first autobiography written in 2000 CONNECTIONS shows the power of Dylan as a poet and his words flow like poetry and you feel the story like he's brought you there with him in his memories. It doesn't hurt that Dylan and I are close in age, so the characters that arrive in his words are familiar.       Imagine Frank Sinatra, Jr., Janis Joplin, and Charlie Daniels just dropping by for a little visit, face in and face out.       Learn the story …
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
An excellent example of memoir. It is written very personally as Dylan reflects on his past and influences.
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Chronicles, Volume One is the first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir. Published on October 5, 2004 by Simon & Schuster, the 304-page volume covers selected points from Dylan's long career. The book spent 19 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover nonfiction books. Chronicles, Volume One was one of five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Biography/Autobiography category for the 2004 publishing year. The abridged audio version of the book is read by actor Sean Penn. The unabridged version is read by Nick Landrum.

Defying expectations, Dylan wrote three chapters about the year between his arrival in New York City in 1961 and recording his first album, focusing on the brief period before he was a household name, while virtually ignoring the mid-1960s when his fame was at its height. He also devoted chapters to two lesser-known albums, New Morning (1970) and Oh Mercy (1989), which contained insights into his collaborations with poet Archibald MacLeish and producer Daniel Lanois. In the New Morning chapter, Dylan expresses distaste for the "spokesman of a generation" label bestowed upon him, and evinces disgust with his more fanatical followers. At the end of the book, Dylan describes with great passion the moment when he listened to the Brecht/Weill song "Pirate Jenny", and the moment when he first heard Robert Johnson’s recordings. In these passages, Dylan suggested that the process ignited his ...
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