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What Did You Say This Book is About?
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Greil Marcus
Like A Rolling Stone:  Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (London:  Faber and Faber, 2005, 283p.)

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This book is about Bob Dylan, based on the title of his most famous song, or maybe about his music and others who also sang his songs.  Or maybe it is about the culture and trends of that time, or about the uncertainty of American cultural identity.  I don't know.  I was left puzzled and a bit frustrated.

The author writes very impressionistically, and it is sometimes hard to tell what he is talking about.  He includes some interesting details about particular songs and their performances, but this is not a chronological epic.  The author jumps around and uses creative associations and metaphors.

Thus it is difficult to relate one song to another, one event to another, to get a picture of what was really happening in Dylan's life and music or in the culture around him, to which his music supposedly speaks.  I kept feeling like something was about to happen, to be revealed, to unfold dynamically out of the somewhat surreal scatter of events, people, places and songs.  But it never happened.

No culminating event occurred; no point was ever made.  No summarizing reflection ever arrived to clarify the muddle and tie the pieces together.

Marcus seems to present some keen insights about Dylan (real name Robert Zimmerman) and the times, and many other music groups and songs, events and places, trends and impressions, but most of the time it is not clear just what the insight is.

Maybe that is the insight, as a commentary on the times and the spirit Dylan is thought to represent.  Is this an ode to one song; a tribute to the writer-singer?  A personal flight of skittish memory clips?

Somewhat frustrating reading on what would have been a good topic.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] The Blues Backstory
[review] Bono Live on Music and Life
[review] The New Light - Christian Folk-Rock in the 60s
[TXT] I'm Tone Deaf - Music and Language
[Review] Texas Roots in American Music

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First written and posted on Amazon.com April 7, 2006
Updated 16 August 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 November 2006
Last edited 21 August 2022

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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