From Publishers Weekly
Ricks, a professor of humanities at Boston University, allows his own musings about Bob Dylan to go "blowin' in the wind" in this love letter to the enigmatic bard. Focusing on the centrality of the seven deadly sins (pride, anger, lust, envy, sloth, greed, covetousness), the four virtues (justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence) and the three graces (faith, hope, love) in Dylan's writings, Ricks confirms Dylan's poetic genius and elevates the poet of the north country to canonical status alongside Tennyson, Shakespeare and Milton. Through a series of closely engaged readings of selected songs, Ricks demonstrates how each reflects a concern with sin, virtue or grace. Thus, "Lay, Lady, Lay" becomes an anthem of lust, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" a paean to fortitude and "If Not for You" a tribute to love. In every reading of the songs, he compares Dylan's poetry to the work of other poets, often finding either explicit correspondence or structural echoes of earlier works. For example, Ricks contends that the structure of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" mimics the structure of the early Scottish ballad "Lord Randal." Sometimes Ricks strives to be too hip and preciousas when he characterizes "Lay, Lady, Lay" as "erotolayladylaylia," and when he concludes that there are similarities between other poems and Dylan's by providing a list of one word correspondences, as he does with "Lay, Lady, Lay" and Donne's "To His Mistress Going to Bed." Nevertheless, Ricks's affectionate critical tour-de-force reminds readers why Dylan continues to encourage our "hearts always to be joyful" and our "songs always to be sung" as we remain "forever young."
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'Ricks's writing on Dylan is the best there is' Alex Ross, New Yorker 'A great case has been made by a great critic (Christopher Ricks) that a great lyricist - Bob Dylan - is, in fact, a poet.' Dan Chiasson, New York Review of Books 'The rewards are just as one would expect: a bracing attention to artfulness, a wonderful sensitivity to nuance, and a particularly brilliant sympathy with the purpose and effect of Dylan's rhymes.' Andrew Motion, Guardian
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