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Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown (Icons of America) Hardcover – May 24, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Writing with deep respect and affection for his subject, David Yaffe gives us an exhilarating tour of Bob Dylan's astonishing career. This book sings."—Brian Morton, author of Starting Out in the Evening

(Brian Morton 2010-08-27)

"With a keen ear for Dylan's musical influences, vocal changes, and literary borrowings, David Yaffe captures the dramatic twists and turns of Dylan's creative life, especially his chamelon-like shifts of identity, his protean elusiveness."—Morris Dickstein, author Gates of Eden and Dancing in the Dark
(Morris Dickstein 2010-08-20)

"Exhilarating reading....One finishes the book not with a diminished, but rather a much augmented and far more nuanced appreciation of Dylan’s lifework....The voice is lively, witty, colloquial, endlessly comfortable....Dylan studies now bulks rather large; Yaffe’s book promises to whip the field into a kind of shape."—Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Pomona College, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan
(Kevin J.H. Dettmar 2010-11-10)

"Steeped but not drowned in cultural studies, David Yaffe offers fresh and sometimes prickly insight about Bob Dylan's art. Yaffe reads closely and listens hard, and his book will have you saying, 'aha!' again and again."—Sean Wilentz, Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor of History, Princeton University, and author of Bob Dylan in America

(Sean Wilentz 2010-11-30)

"David Yaffe is to Bob Dylan what Andrew Delbanco is to Herman Melville and what Farah Jasmine Griffin is to Billie Holiday—a writer whose authority is so vast and whose thinking is so fresh that he makes reading about his long-familiar subject an act of discovery."—David Hajdu, Columbia University; author of Positively 4th Street
(David Hajdu 2010-12-13)

“…fascinating for obsessives who think they know everything and want to know more.”   — Kirkus Reviews
(Kirkus Reviews)

"Mr. Yaffe has excellent chapters . . . approaching at times the intensity of prose poetry."—David Yezzi, The Wall Street Journal
(David Yezzi The Wall Street Journal)

". . . based on the depth and breadth of his knowledge exhibited in this book, [Yaffe] must actually be a full-time Dylanologist.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“[P]rovocative perceptions and stylish writing…”—The North Coast Journal
(The North Coast Journal)

“Yaffe] takes some risks a more established Bob scholar might shy away from . . . and for such fearlessness – and for keeping it all to the point – [he] deserves our gratitude.”—The Montreal Gazette
(The Montreal Gazette)

". . . fun, funny, learned as hell as well as plain smart, and subjective in the best possible sense."—Guy Crucianelli, PopMatters
(Guy Crucianelli PopMatters)

". . . a fascinating exploration of Dylan's music . . . Highly recommended."—R.D. Cohen, Choice
(R.D. Cohen Choice)

"Yaffe’s synthesis of scholarship and analysis shines."—Thomas Larson, Contrary
(Thomas Larson Contrary)

About the Author

David Yaffe is assistant professor of English at Syracuse University and a music critic for the Nation. He is the author of Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing and Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell


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Product Details

  • Series: Icons of America
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780300124576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300124576
  • ASIN: 0300124570
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By William B. Jones on June 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Yaffe portrays a series of Bob Dylans in this tightly-packed volume, and whether you grin, gimace, or notice the inside reference to Dylan's song "A Series of Dreams" in the first half of this sentence may signal whether you want to delve in or move on. If you grinned, read on. If you grimaced, you may want to save your dime. And if you didn't notice, be forewarned Yaffe doesn't always tell you what you've missed as you go. But for the initiated, it's still good fun.

He titles his opening chapter, for example, after poet Philip Larkin's reference to Dylan's "cawing, derisive voice" on "Highway 61 Revisited". Yaffe wonders (and wanders) briefly about where to place Dylan among The Poets (including Ginsberg, Wallace Stevens and TS Eliot) before moving on to the Necessity of Dylan for enabling history to know such voices as Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Patti Smith. The certitude of the author's voice (that is, Yaffe's) is in little doubt here, but his theses will need more fleshing out for those new to studies of Mr. Dylan.

So, for example, from Yaffe one might bridge to further coverage on Dylan's (and Larkin's) "Songs, Poems and Rhymes" in Chistopher Ricks' 2005 volume "Dylan's Visions of Sin", and on to "The Ballad of Bob Dylan" by Daniel Mark Epstein for a longitudinal blend of biograph, political context and listener experience.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My son in law is a huge fan of Bob Dylan and when this came out I read a review and gave it as a Christmas gift. He was surprised and commented on what a good read it is.
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