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Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010 by [Marcus, Greil]
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3.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest book on Dylan (after Like a Rolling Stone), veteran rock writer Marcus gathers his writings on the icon's long and varied career. Though Marcus seems to include every article, comment, or essay in which he so much as mentions Dylan, longtime fans will appreciate coverage of pivotal moments like working with The Band, a screening of The Last Waltz at Martin Scorsese's house, the first and last shows from a 14-night stand after Dylan became a Christian fundamentalist, and his 2004 performance of "Masters of War." It's not all fawning praise however, and Marcus not only includes his in-depth New York Times review of "New Morning" ("his best album in years") but also his damning critique of "Street Legal." The author's studies of specific songs will surely serve to deepen appreciation, but is it really necessary to revisit the Favorite Albums of Senatorial Candidates in Minnesota or the fact that the online Dylan store offers a "Self-Portrait Throw Blanket"? Maybe for the obsessed. Those with a less than fanatical fascination might be better served by one of the many other books on the iconic singer-songwriter. (Oct.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Rolling Stone, October, 2010
“As a critic, Greil Marcus is a tough crowd—his bullshit detector should get some kind of Nobel Prize. No writer has followed Bob Dylan as closely or as passionately as Marcus, who makes the man's whole career seem like one wild American adventure. And nobody has ever written about Dylan with so much savage wit…. In this essential anthology, Marcus chronicles Dylan's ups and downs…. The collection reads like the journal of a 40-year love story…. Through it all, Marcus' words are restless and probing—a true match for Dylan's voice."

 Book Page, December 2010
“No one else has anatomized Bob Dylan, his music and his personality as relentlessly or as minutely as Greil Marcus. Witness now the culmination of that obsession in Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus…. But this is more than a study of Dylan—it’s a jagged portrait of the age.”

 American Scholar, Winter 2011
“No cultural critic has contemplated the meaning of Dylan’s music and career more thoroughly than Greil Marcus…. What makes this collection of writings so welcome is that Marcus’s career as a critic began just after those profound and turbulent times; over half the book covers Dylan’s career since 1990…. Reading some 40 years of Marcus’s criticism on Bob Dylan allows us to appreciate more fully than we have before the long arc of the musician’s career. It also displays the development of the critic’s vision of America.”
San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 2010
“Why read anyone else's work on Dylan? Through previous tomes like Invisible Republic and Like a Rolling Stone, the Berkeley-based Marcus has done more to build the Dylan myth than the curmudgeonly man himself.”
Boston Globe, November 26, 2010
“If anyone is worthy of an entire collection of critiques of Bob Dylan, it’s Marcus. The rock critic and cultural commentator has astutely chronicled Dylan’s trajectory for more than four decades through record reviews, essays, and books.”
The Forward, November 22, 2010
“So how best to understand Bob Dylan? Miles Davis, another modern master of American music, once said, ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.’ Playing what’s there and what’s not there as a critic — a mode familiar to Dylan playing out his influences as an artist, as well — Marcus allows Dylan’s work to be heard thicker, stranger, more boldly and with more imagination than we could hear it on our own.”

 Minneapolis Start Tribune, Best Nonfiction of 2010
“A wondrous pairing of one of the greatest musicians in American history and one of our greatest music journalists.... These pieces create a vivid, fascinating portrait of how, through his long and trailblazing career, Dylan has drawn from and utterly reinvented the landscape of traditional American song. Marcus' collected celebrations (and occasional disappointed criticisms) of Dylan are must-reading for Dylan devotees everywhere.”

Robert Loss , Bookslut, December 6, 2010
“Eccentric, volatile, persuasive: Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010 reads like the free adventure offered by its subject…. A clutch of dispatches from a correspondent grown skeptical but still capable of being surprised -- who in fact wants to be surprised…. Marcus is simply one of the few in his field who can match Dylan on a subject they both find fascinating: America.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 1720 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Publication Date: October 19, 2010
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0044DEFUK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,203 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
8 page Introduction, 3 page Prologue, 431 pages of text, 6 pages of acknowledgments, 3 pages of credits, and 30 page index. There are a few b&w photos throughout the book-but very few, and they're very small.

Lately this has been a good time for fans of Bob Dylan wanting some keen insight into his music, his influences, and a bit on the man himself. Sean Wilentz has written a good book ("Bob Dylan In America"), about Dylan's music and it's place in society, Now, with long time Dylan observer/critic Greil Marcus, we have another book well worth reading. Marcus is the well known author of books like "Mystery Train", and "The Old, Weird America" among others.

There's probably no one else who has written about Dylan and his music with more insight,over a long period of time, than Marcus. As the title suggests he's followed Dylan, beginning in his early days up through to the present. Anyone looking for articles from 1965-67 will be disappointed. There's one article from 1968, with the real story beginning in 1970 with his critique on Dylan's "Self Portrait" album. From that point on it's all here, with more than half the pieces being written in the last thirteen years. This is because Dylan's later work, according to Marcus, is just as interesting, and the later work will bring into focus Dylan's earlier work. An obvious Dylan fan, Marcus nevertheless pulls no punches when Dylan falters. I've read Marcus' articles and reviews from the beginning, and vividly remember his scathing critique of "Self Portrait", with that now famous (infamous) opening question. At the time those four words said it all. But even when Dylan does falter, Marcus never really gave up on Dylan's work-he always looked for something positive, no matter how small or insignificant.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a music critic myself and an archivist of popular culture (I founded the All-Music Guide and a number of other sites as well), I was curious to see what this book contained. Also, I traveled some with Bob Dylan and another player named Perry Lederman back in 1961. If Dylan and I were still in touch, we would agree that Lederman was perhaps the most marvelous Travis-style guitar picker we had ever encountered, at least back then. I hitchhiked with Dylan, helped him to find his way around Ann Arbor (my home town) for an early concert, and so on. My point is: I know something about both Dylan and his music. I have published many books on music, my most recent book (August 2010) being "Blues in Black and White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals," so I know at least a little about that as well.

Marcus writes with passion, devotion, care, and great, great detail about Dylan's music. My problem with the book and the writing is best expressed by a quote from William Blake in his poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," which is "Enough! or too much." In this case, I would say "too much!" and a lot of this writing tells me not so much about Dylan, as about Marcus.

What little I do know about Dylan, I doubt that he would appreciate most of what this book has to say about his motives and state of mind. I feel the same way. That being said, I don't want to sound too negative either. What I do appreciate is the degree of (as mentioned earlier) "passion, devotion, care, and great, great detail" that Marcus puts into his writing, especially about the music scene back then. However, when it comes to speculating about Dylan, his guess is as good as mine, as in: a guess. I would rather read something that this author writes about himself, his life, his spirituality, etc.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mythbusting--not Dylan, but Marcus. Used to think I was a fan. I cannot remember the last time i've read such an arrogant, self-serving and bitter diatribe by someone who apparently forgot that the author was not the subject matter. Marcus criticizes every single piece of writing by anyone else writing about Dylan, dismisses all of Dylan's early 70's work with such vitriol, it was uncomfortable, and goes off on long discourses on any angle he chooses, instead of just giving us the review. Much of the analysis is so self-aggrandizing, that it seemingly undermines Dylan's genius as a songwriter. Having trouble finishing it--especially after being warned away from the Sean Wilentz book, and finding it a much better read.
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Format: Hardcover
Style over content is how one approaches Marcus. Some of the reviews here are quite fair in praising Marcus's writing, while not terribly appreciative of Marcus's critical appraisals on Dylan. You will flip pages here and alternate between joyful reading and expressions of "What?!" While I always value a critic who over pans more than the critic who praises everything, Marcus's often negative evaluations of Dylan's work puzzles and frustrates me. What he likes he loves; what he dislikes, he frequently terms "awful." Okay, it's engaging to match our likes and dislikes with such a wonderful writer, but at the end of the book, I really couldn't see how Marcus can call work like "Street Legal" and the live "Hard Rain" (RTR2) worthless tripe. These are two great, great recordings and Marcus's tunnel vision is much too limited to do anything but damn them. The fact that he seems to actually rate Dylan's bad stuff (like "Self Portrait") over works he hates is astounding. Having said that, one reads Marcus to find him, not Dylan. And finding Marcus, as always, is a literary pleasure. He's a tremendous writer. At the end of the day, you need to put some distance between yourself and the Bob Dylan who is appraised here. On the other hand, you can easily embrace Greil Marcus the writer. To give him his due, he states at the book's opening, that he wanted to write about his own reaction to Dylan's work, not to directly analyze the music itself. Within the first thirty pages, you realize that the two objectives cannot possibly be successfully separated. Therein lies both the joy and the frustration in reading the book. I hope Greil Marcus continues his productive writing for a long time. Good for the argumentative mind!
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