Chronicles: Volume One

by Bob Dylan

Hardcover, 2004





New York : Simon & Schuster, 2004


"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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jordan.Hunt
Great, great book. Dylan doesn't cover what the gossip columnists want to hear, instead giving readers a glimpse into the way he thinks and feels.
LibraryThing member kdwade
Look at the average rock n roll autobiography and you'll find a lot of name-dropping, a lot of "I was so drunk that I..." stories, and the age-old "I really screwed up, but then I fixed things and now I'm on top of my game" section. Even the best celebrity autobiographies (Johnny Cash's is damn near literary) follow this general template.

Bob's book has a little "how I got my groove back" to it, but you will find it generally devoid of the kind of name-dropping you might expect (he doesn't even talk about the time he and John Lennon threw Phil Ochs out of a taxi!), and very little dishing of any kind really.

What Bob has written here is basically a kunstlerroman, a sort of artistic coming-of-age story. He tells you how he started out, what drew him to folk music and what he found there; he then skips the most fruitful artistic period of his career to tell you how and why he got so burned out in the early 70s, and how he rekindled his creative fire in the late 80s. He tells you what he thought of a lot of novelists and poets he read, what musicians were important to him, and why.

For a music lover like me, that's infinitely more interesting than the average showbiz autobiography, and it really elevates this book far above what you'd generally expect. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everybody, but if you're a Dylan critic, a music lover or a songwriter especially, give it a shot.
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LibraryThing member Griff
As I started this book I was wondering, "Why the buzz?" It seemed to be rambling nonsense. That sensation, however, did not last long. Suddenly it became a wonderfully chaotic chronicle of an incredible time in music and beyond. No straightforward timeline here. Dylan jumps around and skips a few steps, but in the end the insertion of the Oh Mercy sessions into the mix absolutely fits - and gives one a greater appreciation of his journey and that album. It is a magnificent reminder of his genius - and of his unique take on the world. If you are a Dylan fan, it is a must read.… (more)
LibraryThing member desultory
So much better than you expect it's going to be. It loses its way a bit later on (especially in the episode about recording with Daniel Lanois, which is heavy with studio squabbles), but the opening section about arriving in New York is fascinating and thrilling.
LibraryThing member rayski
Gives you insight into the man’s mind, what was going on in his head during his informative years, just before he started writing. Then he jumps later and tells about the difficulties in still creating records when the genius has worn off. Good stuff and lots of interesting name dropping during days in the Village.
LibraryThing member clark.hallman
This is an excellent autobiographical chronicle of Bob Dylan's young life and early career. I found his prose to be enjoyable and extremely informative. The book reveals a Bob Dylan who was totally different from his “voice of a generation” image.
LibraryThing member EbonyHaywood
This book is rich with references and lesson in American history and pop culture and literature. Bob Dylan may not be formally educated, but his depth of knowledge is fascinating. From this book I learned that Bob Dylan is a down-to-earth man who, during his life and career, just wanted to play his music. Nothing more, nothing less. I also learned that Spike Lee's father was a professional bass player.… (more)
LibraryThing member mr_rhumba
Fun but scattered bio. Jumps around in time.
LibraryThing member jtlauderdale
So much has been written and speculated about why Dylan did this, wrote that, etc. It's refreshing to hear his own take on many of the famous or notorious episodes in his past. I look forward to Vol. 2.
LibraryThing member tonyalex
Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume One is the first of his three part autobiography. It tells about his early life of struggling to succeed as a musicial artist in Greenwich Village after moving away from his parents and average home life. I really enjoy it, especially since the way Bob Dylan writes his life story is quite similar to the way he writes his memorable lyrics. There are times when he seems to be massaging his ego, but he is Bob Dylan, which means he can do pretty much whatever he wants.… (more)
LibraryThing member djalchemi
It's the surreal tangents and the anecdotal glimpses into Dylan's humility that I most love in this book. The mini-essay on Thucydides that goes on for several pages, the observations on Machiavelli (and where he went wrong), and the description of how - during the recording of Oh Mercy - he worried that he was stretching producer Daniel Lanois' patience and asked him, "Are we still friends, Danny?"… (more)
LibraryThing member Marjorie
Amazing insights into the creative processes.
LibraryThing member cliffagogo
Long awaited autobiography by the world’s best-loved troubadour. At times thoughtful and self-deprecating, the book is less gossipy than some would like, but incredibly fulfilling to those of us who have fallen in love with his music. Essential for fans and music lovers everywhere.
LibraryThing member jveezer
Good book for a Dylan fan. It was written very much like a lot of his liner notes. It was interesting to hear him talk about how some of the recent albums came together but I was most interested in his early days.
LibraryThing member TimFootman
Dylan hasn't made a truly satisfactory album since 1966. Despite the reviews, this book doesn't indicate that he's belatedly recovered his muse via a new medium. Better than Tarantula, I s'pose.
LibraryThing member yogipoet
enjoyed it. i think he dictated it in a series of interviews. it's fair to say just about anything dylan does is interesting. i liked the way little of it seemed to be about him and a lot about what was going on around him at the time. a gemini trait no doubt. wasn't really what i expected. for his life story you'll have to ask someone else, he's too busy living it to write it.… (more)
LibraryThing member gilporat
I'm biased because I'm a huge Bob fan. They say it will have another two volumes. I'd read another twenty volumes about his fascinating life.
LibraryThing member br77rino
Fantastic to find out from Dylan, in his own words, that he was always surprised by and rejected the messianic adulation of some of his listeners. He never felt himself to be some great liberal.
LibraryThing member NicholasPayne
At his best Dylan's prose is lucid and lovely. At times, however, I haven't a clue what he's talking about. Much like his songwriting. For example, what the hell is he getting at when he relates the incident in which a guy named Robert Zimmerman is killed on a motorcycle in California? He goes so far as to stress his point - whatever it is - by saying something like, "You can check it out for yourself if you don't believe me." Huh? That aside, Dylan was and always will be one fascinating feller. And it's a pretty darn readable book.… (more)
LibraryThing member seanj
I love Bob Dylan. This is an amazing memoir, whether or not you're a big fan of the music.
LibraryThing member carterchristian1
My daughter had me buy this book at a thrift store for her son, who is interested in music, but not pursuing it very systematically. I discovered that in fact I already had a copy, but never read it. My observations, which are a bit different is my facination with his descriptions. He loves to describe places and there are excellent descriptions . He also adds interesting tidbits...too bad no index...the sad life of Robert E Lee's father who was disfigured by lye and ended up in the West Indies, a description of trains " I'd seen and heard trains from my earliest childhoodand the sight and sound of them always made me feel secure" (I can identify with this, a train running near my house). His description of living as a young child through World War II rang true to me, as I did too. "If you were born around this time you could feel the old world go and the new one beginning" .(Yes, was really like that).He refers to the radio as "the sountrack of my life".

Then his descriptions of libraries. He devotes 12 pages to a personal library he visits (Library thingers....what effect is your library having on others that you do not even know about ?). There is even a wonderful description of the New York Public Library,

Too bad there is no index to this book. Once Dylan became well known he met a lot of famous people and has interesting observations...Archibald MacLeich, John Wayne and of course Joan Baez and other musicians.

Excellent, excellent, a book to dip into from time to time.
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LibraryThing member carka
Book club selection. Was a very disjointed account of Bob Dylan's life... reading this, you'd think he was the epitome of the family man, just a little drink now and then. It jumps from experience to experience ... not exactly a chronological chronicle.
LibraryThing member tetchechury
Great book by one of the greatest musical minds of this generation. Can't wait for volume II
LibraryThing member reedchr3
This is the closest we're going to get to a Bob Dylan autobiography, and his language is as colorful here as it is in his music. This is a book that I absolutely tore through, given a mild obsession of mine. A student might need to have even the slightest similar interest to use this text, but I can't deny that such a student might receive a bonus point or two in my classroom... hah.… (more)
LibraryThing member scottjpearson
Bob Dylan is perhaps the best popular American songwriter/poet in the past century. Dylan, as he admits in this memoir/autobiography, was not the best student in high school, but he taught himself how to write by imitating the lyrical and musical work of the best folk artists of the day.

Although Dylan is known for his social conscience, in this work, he eschews that he ever aspired to dabble in contemporary politics. He claims - over and over - that he only wanted to be a true folk artist. Although he was popularly known for running away from the public spotlight, he claims that the press forced him to live this life. In so doing, he claims his persona is false - or at the very least, misguided.

Dylan would not be the first artist to claim that popularity hurt his/her life. I'm sure there is a solid nugget of truth in that claim. Nonetheless, Dylan appears to have nurtured this persona in his public portrayal of himself in pursuit of his artistic vision.

Either way, Dylan's passion for songwriting comes through in this work. Most of this book dwells upon how Dylan's unique and brilliant style came about through the deep study of others' poetry and lyrics. Songwriters and poets will find it well worth the time to read, muse, and develop their own styles from Dylan's brilliance.
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