Synopses & Reviews
The celebrated first memoir from arguably the most influential singer-songwriter in the country, Bob Dylan.
"I'd come from a long ways off and had started a long ways down. But now destiny was about to manifest itself. I felt like it was looking right at me and nobody else."
So writes Bob Dylan in Chronicles: Volume One, his remarkable book exploring critical junctures in his life and career. Through Dylan's eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first arrives in Manhattan. Dylan's New York is a magical city of possibilities -- smoky, nightlong parties; literary awakenings; transient loves and unbreakable friendships. Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With the book's side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.
By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan's thoughts and influences. Dylan's voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.
"After a career of principled coyness, Dylan takes pains to outline the growth of his artistic conscience in this superb memoir. Writing in a language of cosmic hokum and street-smart phrasing, he lingers not on moments of success and celebrity, but on the crises of his intellectual development. He reconstructs, for example, an early moment in New York when he realized 'that I would have to start believing in possibilities that I wouldn't have allowed before, that I had been closing my creativity down to a very narrow, controllable scale...that things had become too familiar and I might have to disorient myself.' And he recounts how, in that search for larger reach, he actually went to the public library's microfilm archives to learn the rhetoric of Civil War newspapers. Skipping the years of his greatest records, or perhaps saving those years for the second volume of his chronicle, Dylan recalls the times when he was sick of his public persona and made more lackluster albums like 'Self-Portrait' and 'New Morning.' He then skips again to his comeback work with producer Daniel Lanois in the late 1980s. Dylan emphasizes that he was 'indifferent to wealth and love,' and readers looking for private revelations will be disappointed. But others will prize the display of musical integrity and seriousness that is evident in his minutia-filled accounts of his influences in folk and blues. Ultimately, this book will stand as a record of a young man's self-education, as contagious in its frank excitement as the letters of John Keats and as sincere in its ramble as Jack Kerouac's On the Road, to which Dylan frequently refers. A person of Dylan's stature could have gotten away with far less; that he has been so thoughtful in the creation of this book is a measure of his talents, and a gift to his fans." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Gone is the druggy logorrhea of his 1966 novel, Tarantula, as Mr. Dylan...looks back on his life. Yet Chronicles is hardly tame. It is lucid without being linear, swirling through time without losing its strong storytelling thread." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[L]ucid, cogent, coherent, crystal clear. You hear Dylan's inimitable voice, his cadence, his dry wit, twists of phrase, the rasp, rush and tumble of memories all beautifully articulated." Richard Harrington, The Washington Post
"A key to understanding the most important figure in American cultural history. It took courage to write, to unlock a chest of secrets and set them free, but Dylan's always had plenty of that." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Its generally sprightly pace occasionally unwinds like an old pocket watch to accommodate slow, rambling scenes that make for some of the book's most compelling passages and sometimes actually do hint at what it's like to be Bob Dylan." Los Angeles Times
"Chronicles must be taken on its own terms, enjoyed for what it is regardless of what one may have expected or wished it to be. There's a lot to enjoy. And it's a surprisingly honest and revealing autobiography, albeit an eccentric and unconventional one." San Diego Union-Tribune
"[A] fascinating, maddening time-travel ride....Chronicles affirms Dylan's idiosyncrasies and his mastery of the vernacular. As his best songs also show, he's a great reporter with a talent for vivid detail." Boston Globe
"Surely no one really expected Bob Dylan to produce a typically linear autobiography, coherently taking readers step-by-step through his life and career....And it's obvious Dylan penned this book to confound loyal fans as much as inform them." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"[T]he real literary achievement of Chronicles is the voice Dylan has devised for his youthful self, which is spellbinding in its hokum." Tom Carson, The New York Times Book Review
"What may throw some readers about Chronicles
is how modest and straightforward it is. Neither a hallucination, like Dylan's Tarantula
, nor a coffee-table fan's scrapbook (there are no photos), Chronicles
starts in without any preamble, any fuss....[W]hat distinguishes Chronicles
is what has distinguished and upset people throughout most of Dylan's career: the inconvenience of his genius." Charles Taylor, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review
About the Author
Bob Dylan is one of the most celebrated songwriters and performers of all time. He has released thirty-six studio albums, which collectively have sold over 120 million copies around the world. He has been awarded the French Legion of Honor, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. His memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list.