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"Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan", the title says a lot about the book Ian Bell has written. A lot. This is a tremendous book in it's research and just plain prose writing; it is critically analytic. It's a pleasure and instructive to read. The historicity seems to be very well researched; Bell makes some cogent observations of American culture, which, perhaps, only an outsider can make. As a fan of Dylan who has not even heard all of his music, what I do know Bell gets quite right.
That said: what gets said by Bell as well seems a bit petulant to put it mildly as he slowly but persistently berates Dylan for his song pilferage or plagiarism, for Dylan's "expansive" self-histories, his family and personal relationships, the "borrowed" records and Dylan's manipulations of the press that are at once cruel and self-promoting. Admitted: Dylan reworked a lot of stuff and put his stamp on it; perhaps more importantly, he did it at the right place and at the right time. As has been said of a lot of the greats: phrasing is everything. All the other stuff, well, it's a good read.
It's good to be lucky and Dylan made the best of the luck he'd made and stumbled upon; (at times it feels like Bell thinks this is unjust or unfair). It seems that from about age 19 Dylan just "got it" all very naturally just like Morrison, without a publicist, when it came to dealing with the press; not many people did. The crushing press and public spotlight doomed many, many more to short public lives. It also seems a little inexcusable when Bell criticizes Dylan on account of his father's death for his lack of creativity in the 70's. Despite all of Dyan's prior "dis-owning" of family according to Bell, the fact that Dylan flew his mom and dad to see him "make it finally" (a condition his father tried to apply earlier) to his first New York Carnegie Hall show argues loudly against the creative stories he told the press about them. It's kind of funny now reading the stories, the BS, Dylan was slinging to anyone who would listen and write it down for further consumption. Bell feels that Dylan mistreated the Press. But, when Bell implies some deep family hatred as symptomatic of Dylan's faults, it is a bit much (who can claim to not have any family issues?). On father/son conflicts: Show me a son who hasn't got 'em; Freud said a fathers death for a son is the greatest of psychological events, the most traumatic. Does Bell really hold Dylan up to so high a standard fairly? Perhaps he himself does so without knowing it and he finds it too embarrassing to admit. ("...even he must have to stand naked").
Largely, Bell thinks Dylan's behavior was calculated, coldly and clearly conscious: the plagiarism, the little family lies, the press treatment, his friends, acquaintances and lovers treatment, etc. Well, he did do that stuff. But, it's as though Bell thinks Dylan planned all of his actions in advance even though he finally get's Dylan to admit late in the book that all his 60's work was unconscious and that he only became conscious some time in the 70's. Dylan was all of 19 when he rolled into New York City. Bell wants to hold Dylan to account for actions all of us have made without plan, or, at least it seems that way in retrospect: anyone who has made it to be 60 or so can look back without denial and wonder how it is exactly we got to where we are and as to how much it was all planned out. It's doubtful many can take the position and say it happened just as planned even AFTER we became conscious of self. Who of us are not driven by unconscious desires and fears? Jimmie, Janice and Jim couldn't make it past their 27th birthday after "doing time in the universal mind", as Jim put it.
Being the center of attention places even more strain on one man's life, especially alone, not part of a group. Being in the spotlight is no easy task and performing thoughtfully or compassionately all of the time cannot be expected either, quite the contrary. Dylan has managed to ride this chiming freedom flashing; he's still doing it to some extent now 50 years later. Bell should perhaps be less critical of Dylan but it seems to give him focus; it is perhaps necessary (the critical analysis); it may advance an agenda to sell more books (not an unusual calculation).
It's OK (Ma); the book is well worth the read, if you have an interest in Americana, and, especially the history of the era. Bell's knowledge of "the times", music, poetry and writing in general is admirable; it's huge. This is a very, very good book; a great read and worth the effort.
The book covers Dylan's life to age 34. Highly recommended. (Second request for Index to songs; Bell's analyses are very interesting)
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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Ian Bell stepped up to this task, and he did so with style and grace. Oh, let's not forget wit. I have read only a few Dylan biographies, but for some reason I've enjoyed them all, because Dylan the person isn't the point. It's Dylan the lightning rod, Dylan the symbolic something or other, spokesman of.....his own truth at the moment he spoke it.
Ian Bell is a lot like Dylan, in ways I can't exactly pin down for you, but he has, like Dylan, strong emotional reactions and a deep personal tie to the events and the era, and he is always present in this book. Ian Bell, bless his Scottish heart, lives and breathes in this epic, he walks you through America as it was, and he holds your hand in his hot sweaty fist. I've never had a book that was read aloud by the author, I don't even have any experience with the "read it aloud" book media, but this is a book I would just love to have on tape (yep, I'm ancient) ok, dvd, but I would just love to hear Ian Bell read these beautiful sentences out loud. And I hope he has a strong Scottish accent, because next to a Welsh accent, that would be my favorite one for a reading performance.
This is not a casual book.
You must show up, as the author most certainly does.
All the myths, the different accounts of this or that are hinted at,but this is a subtle web he weaves and one must do the background reading first.
This is the thinking man's Dylan book.
I don't think I would have gotten it if I had read it when I was younger. I was born in 1961, at the end of October. So I was too young to be able to put all of that decade into any sort of context except that I must say: the toys were incredibly dangerous. I am looking at you, makers of the glass klick-klacks, among many others. Toys like tiny guillotines.
Speaking of which, Dylan pronounces that word "guillotines" in a song and he says it the wrong way. I think this should be researched. Why did he say it that way? How many times has he said it that way in public?
Is he anti-Francophile? Is he trying to tell us, as Americans, that we should all mispronounce French words?
Perhaps he's making some definitive statement with his pronunciation of that particular word, which is a lovely and efficient killing machine, concerning the French Revolution in relation to the American Revolution. This needs some serious research and consideration, people.
Another thing I really appreciated about this book was Bell's very grounded, sometimes ascerbic wit. Yes, as people mentioned here, he asks wry, and ironic or pointed questions, and he does so often. It's his way. There is so much of Bell present, in a delightful, charming, and intriguing presence between the covers of this wonderful book that I might even go hog wild and look for his biography of Robert L. Stevenson.
When I read a book, I am engaging with the writer, and this writer is engaging indeed.
Of the few biographies I've read about Bob Dylan, not one has taken the stance of this author, a thoughtful and fascinated but quite personal stance.
A writer must entitle himself to play G-d (told ya, I'm a Jew) because if he can't speak from that mountaintop it's not going to work.
This book works, and I'm actually reading it again now, because I really didn't understand America. I don't understand America. And I have a dawning suspicion that Ian Bell can teach me about this country, using Dylan as a kaleidoscope and a compass, or maybe a Rorschach test.
So I'm off to read it again.
And I love that it's almost 600 pages, because it's an experience.