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Chronicles Paperback – September 13, 2005

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  • Bob Dylan: "Johnny Cash's voice was so big, it made the world grow small... When I first heard 'I Walk the Line' so many years earlier, it sounded like a voice calling out 'What are you doing there, boy?' I was trying to keep my eyes wide opened, too." Read more musical excerpts from Chronicles, Vol. 1 on our Music You Should Hear page.

Editorial Reviews Review

One would not anticipate a conventional memoir from Bob Dylan--indeed, one would not have foreseen an autobiography at all from the pen of the notoriously private legend. What Chronicles: Volume 1 delivers is an odd but ultimately illuminating memoir that is as impulsive, eccentric, and inspired as Dylan's greatest music.

Eschewing chronology and skipping over most of the "highlights" that his many biographers have assigned him, Dylan drifts and rambles through his tale, amplifying a series of major and minor epiphanies. If you're interested in a behind-the-scenes look at his encounters with the Beatles, look elsewhere. Dylan describes the sensation of hearing the group's "Do You Want to Know a Secret" on the radio, but devotes far more ink to a Louisiana shopkeeper named Sun Pie, who tells him, "I think all the good in the world might already been done" and sells him a World's Greatest Grandpa bumper sticker. Dylan certainly sticks to his own agenda--a newspaper article about journeymen heavyweights Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis and soul singer Joe Tex's appearance on The Tonight Show inspire heartfelt musings, and yet the 1963 assassination of John Kennedy prompts nary a word from the era's greatest protest singer.

For all the small revelations (it turns out he's been a big fan of Barry Goldwater, Mickey Rourke, and Ice-T), there are eye-opening disclosures, including his confession that a large portion of his recorded output was designed to alienate his audience and free him from the burden of being a "the voice of a generation."

Off the beaten path as it is, Chronicles is nevertheless an astonishing achievement. As revelatory in its own way as Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited, it provides ephemeral insights into the mind one of the most significant artistic voices of the 20th century while creating a completely new set of mysteries. --Steven Stolder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

For legions of die-hard fans and Dylanologists, there is but one voice. And hearing it spoken is rare, mainly during concert band introductions. So the sound of actor Penn taking on Bob Dylan's legendary and oft-cryptic persona is, initially, a surreal aural experience. But after awhile, it becomes clear that the choice was apt. Like Dylan, Penn is a fearless performer, and his own iconoclastic personality serves the narrative without ever threatening to upstage it. One detects a reverent restraint in Penn's voice that conveys the impression that his casual performance is likely as studied as his acclaimed screen work. He adopts a subtle Guthrie-esque workingman's tone, peppering his delivery with plenty of conjunctions. Only when recounting Dylan's youthful arrival in New York City does Penn's preternatural, been-there-done-that tone seem inappropriate. Not surprisingly, Dylan's prose style is lyrical and rambling, the rhythm and cadences jazz-like, and the content prone to Beat influences. But Penn handles these charges with skill. His delivery is even, but his voice dips and rises with welcome emotion when Dylan discusses his unwanted anointment as the conscience of a generation. Overall, this is a solid and compelling audio adaptation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Chronicles (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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362 of 380 people found the following review helpful By John Flora VINE VOICE on October 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I was in college back in the mid-1960s, I remember a piece in the student newspaper that sought to explain the new folk music phenomenon Bob Dylan. I wish I had a copy of that story today, just to see how it matches up with the man revealed in Dylan's new autobiography, Chronicles Volume One.

My dim recollection is that the sophomoric student article painted Dylan as an inscrutable eccentric trickster, deep yet elusive.

That's pretty much the general impression I've had of Dylan since I first heard him around 1964 or '65. And, of course, I thought of him as the conscience and voice of my generation.

Well, it turns out that he's neither, as least not in the way most of us thought.

Dylan, in his own words, comes across as a regular guy who just wanted to do his job and go home to his family without being hassled by every freak and geek who imagined him to be the new Messiah.

In a recent radio interview on NPR - the first he's given in my memory - he's asked if he ever thinks about walking away from music.

"Every day," is his comeback.

The book reveals a devoted family man who has spent much of his life plugging away at his craft and trying to shield himself and his loved ones from the glare of offstage attention.

The further I went in the book, the most shared impressions and cultural perceptions I discovered. I became a grandfather earlier this year and have been wrestling with the idea and its implications of advancing age and life changes. I feel a whole lot better about it now that I know Dylan owns a "World's Greatest Grandpa" bumper sticker.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By V. Messner on November 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some people have said this book doesn't reveal enough about Bob Dylan's personal life and that it skips around too much. I feel differently. Far as self-disclosure goes, Bob Dylan will never write a tell all, because that's just not the kind of person he is. I was very happy with the many personal thoughts and experiences he did share in Chronicles; he was way more open that I expected. This book does not read like a normal story. It's true. Bob doesn't always stick to a chronological line, but in no way does that detract from this unique and wonderful book. The joy in reading this autobiography doesn't lie in seeing Dylan neatly connect the dots. For me, it is just in taking each thought as it comes and enjoying it. Bob explains everything he's seen and done down to the most minute detail. In the book Dylan claims to "never forget a face," and I believe him. He certainly has close to a photographic memory. He remembers things from 30 years ago that I would have forgotten about yesterday - he's a professional observer if there ever was one. It's really unbelievable. It's easy to see that he's a very well read individual. This you will see in the book, as he elaborates and gives interpretations on the works of author after author, poet after poet. His unique personal writing style is no doubt a result of these many influences. I enjoyed this book more than anything I've read in a long time. I eagerly await Chronicles, vol. 2. and if you find Bob Dylan fascinating, I'd highly recommend Chronicles, vol. 1.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Robert P. Inverarity VINE VOICE on October 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
So the man has finally gotten around to writing about himself in prose, and you're thinking of grabbing this, the first fruit. A few remarks are in order, then, to help you decide whether to shell out the bucks. First I want to banish some possible misconceptions (ones I had and you very well might share); then I'll take a longer view of the book and tell you why I think it's worth five stars.

First, it's not an autobiography in the usual sense of the word. Sure, Bob is writing about himself and what he's done, but time flows freely forward and back and the subject changes (sometimes radically) every few paragraphs. He doesn't indulge in much self-justification, he doesn't try to chart a distinct arc of personal development, and it's not rare for him to start down a detour that screams for more exploration and then to turn the bus around. The comparison to X-Ray, the autobiography of Ray Davies of the Kinks, isn't entirely justified -- I don't think Dylan fictionalized much -- but Chronicles is closer in spirit to that than to more conventional rock autobiographies.

Second, Dylan lets you into his mind but he doesn't much open his heart. Suze Rotolo is the subject of some lyrical reminiscence, for instance, but their relationship is kept very abstract -- maybe he's protecting her privacy, I don't know. He talks about his love for his wife and kids at length in the "New Morning" chapter, but they never even show up as characters! His second (?) wife does show up in the "Oh Mercy" chapter, but she remains nameless and faceless. The only emotions Bob really describes are awe for his idols in his early days and frustration and loathing for himself in the "Oh Mercy" period.
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