Synopses & Reviews
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Kinney enters into the world of obsessive Bob Dylan followers (aka the “Dylanologists”) to deliver an immersive work on the artist’s singular impact on American culture.
Bob Dylan was the most influential songwriter of his time. Half a century later, he continues to be a touchstone, a fascination, and an enigma. From the very beginning, he attracted an intensely fanatical cult following, and in The Dylanologists, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Kinney ventures deep into this eccentric subculture to answer the question: What can Dylan’s grip on his most enthusiastic listeners tell us about his towering place in American culture?
In exuberant prose, Kinney introduces us to a vibrant underground: diggers searching for unheard tapes and lost manuscripts, researchers obsessing over the facts of Dylan’s life and career, writers working to decode the unyieldingly mysterious songs, collectors snapping up prized artifacts for posterity, travelers caravanning from concert to concert. It’s an affectionate mania, but as far as Dylan is concerned, a mania nonetheless. Over the years, he has been frightened, annoyed, and perplexed by fans who try to peel back his layers. Intensely private and fiercely combative, Dylan makes one thing plain: He does not wish to be known.
Intelligent, entertaining, and insightful, The Dylanologists is a richly detailed work of narrative journalism in the tradition of Confederates in the Attic and an absorbing story about the tension between zealous fans and their beloved idol.
"Since he stumbled upon Dylan's Biograph album as a teenager long after the album came out, Kinney has been consumed with the enigmatic bard from Hibbing, Minn. He eventually discovers he's not alone in this fixation and uncovers an 'entire nation of unreformed obsessives' like himself who are so fanatical about knowing more about Dylan that they collect bootleg tapes, travel on pilgrimages to Hibbing, and even dig through Dylan's garbage in search of clues that will reveal his identity. In this unremarkable profile of a few of these Dylanologists, Kinney chronicles some of the reasons that they can't get Dylan's voice and music out of their heads, hearts, and homes. For example, Nina Goss and Charlie Haeussler make the pilgrimage to Hibbing to 'see the coffee shop where he ate cherry pie with his girlfriend' and to get a feel for the small town that produced this genius. Alan Jules Weberman becomes famous for searching through Dylan's garbage in search of signs that would help him understand the meaning of Dylan's songs, eventually turning sour on Dylan. Michael Gray plumbs the depths of Dylan's music in his own detailed book, Song and Dance Man III, as he illustrates the ways that Dylan weaves lines from blues songs into his own music. In the end, none of these die-hard fans comes closer to finding the real Dylan, but they discover over and over just why Dylan's music means so much to them." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
David Kinney is the author of The Big One. A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, his writing has appeared in newspapers around the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.