Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rockers Start Writing, Writers Rock

The entire piece can be read by clicking on the title link above.


Folk singer and songwriter Bob Dylan plays the harmonica and acoustic guitar in March 1963 at an unknown lU.S. location. A murky, rare 1960 recording of an Dylan playing guitar and singing folk songs has been donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. He was born in Minnesota in 1941 as Robert Allen Zimmerman. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) - In 2001, Martin Amis, Rick Moody and other authors and artists gathered in New York to honor a peer they regarded as a giant of the times. They compared him to Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Arthur Rimbaud. They called him a bard, a shaman and a master of 'art as revenge.'

That man was Bob Dylan. Had he lived in England, he'd be Sir Bob Dylan, maybe even Lord. Scholarly books have compared him to Dante and Keats; admirers lobby for him to get the Nobel Prize. At a 1997 Kennedy Center ceremony, where fellow honorees included dancer Edward Villela and opera star Jessye Norman, President Clinton thanked Dylan for a 'lifetime of stirring the conscience of the nation.'

Now, Dylan has been knighted by the nation's book reviewers. His memoir, 'Chronicles, Vol. 1,' was among the finalists announced last weekend by the National Book Critics Circle, which has given awards to such writers as John Updike and Philip Roth. Dylan's competitors this year include Stephen Greenblatt, a leading Shakespearean scholar and author of the best-selling 'Will in the World'; and historian Ron Chernow, cited for 'Alexander Hamilton.'

'Bob Dylan is unfairly talented. I've written a lot of books and after reading Dylan's book, I realized I would never write a book that good,' says critic Greil Marcus, a former NBCC finalist whose Dylan book, 'Like a Rolling Stone,' comes out this spring.

'I expected a big, oversized book with lots of pictures and memorabilia. Instead, here is this modest object, with no illustrations. It's not very long. Its tone is humble. It's literate. This is a real book, written out of an immersion in literature.'

In 'Chronicles,' Dylan not only celebrates the influence of Woody Guthrie and other musicians, but states that he recorded an entire album, which he does not identify, based on some stories by Chekhov. Elsewhere he praises Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke and others as 'visionaries, revolutionaries.'"

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