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Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Thinking) (Popular Culture and Philosophy (17)) Paperback – December 16, 2005
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The book does what it says it's going to do. It examines Dylan's work in a reasonably serious way and filters it through the lens of philosophy. In other words, it takes the implications of Dylan's lyrics and explores them in an intellectual sense. It does that admirably. They did take the artist's work seriously and they treated it respectfully. I was afraid the book might be one of those snarky type affairs where they lance the artist with humor and sarcasm. There is one fault I found in this regard, but I'll go into that after my next point.
The thing is, as I read it, I realized that this kind of high intellectual philosophizing and Dylan's music don't mix well for me, personally. I love reading Kierkegaard, Camus, Nietzsche, Sartre, on their own terms, but Dylan is different. The beauty of Dylan's music lies in its mystery. That's where the magic comes from. It is the beauty of dreams, not the beauty of science. In a way, I felt like disassembling his words to try to unearth whatever Dylan's worldview might be was sort of cheapening the art for me.
If you read Dylan's earliest interviews, when he was much less distrustful of the media and a little bit more apt to open up, he actually spoke a bit about his view of the role of the artist, and it was precisely to share a Rimbaud-like, transcendent vision. He was not ever trying to communicate a cohesive political or philosophical worldview, and to approach his music from that direction is to miss out on its greater magic. That's the point I think this book largely missed.
Still, as I said, I give it 4 stars because it's not the book's fault that I ended up not wanting to look at Dylan's music in this way. The book does what it says it's going to do, and it does well.
Much has been written about Bob Dylan over the years, some good, some horrible. This book would be a good addition to anyone that seriously considers the content and meaning of Dylan's poetry, that is until Bob gives us a philosophy textbook of his lyrics himself.
They are joyless and often pander to the reader--because, while not everybody understands Camus and Kierkeegarde (I'm not sure if I spelled it right, and am too lazy to check), anybody could make the conclusion that in Dylan's romantic songs (like Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, or Tangled Up In Blue) he is sad, because the love meant everything to him in his life.
It's not hard to read meaning into Dylan's music, but in doing such, this book misses what I feel to be Dylan's point--that everyone should have their own philosophy and be an individual leader. In reading this and writing this, readers are disobeying Dylan's statement: Don't follow leaders.
So, I wouldn't recommend spending the outrageous $ on this book unless you really like people to tell you what they think Bob Dylan was thinking. And since even Zimmy himself can't quite express all his thoughts on life, this book does a poor job.