DYLAN by Jonathan Cott


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Lavishly illustrated, coffee-table treatment for the career of songwriter/performer Bob Dylan, with a gushy, pretentious essay by Jonathan Cott (Forever Young) as text. Virtually ignoring Dylan's music and concentrating intensely on his lyrics (treated throughout as great poetry), Cott regards the influential Sixties figure as a spiritual quest-hero, constantly likened to the Greek gods Hermes and Proteus. Thus, Bob Zimmerman's decision to rename himself Bob Dylan is given romantic, philosophical treatment (allusions to Octavio Paz, Kierkegaard); by ""making a fiction true to his heart and true to the reality of imagination,"" he created an alter-ego personality that ""enabled him to see through the illusions of his own personality and the world's."" Likewise, his personal problems are muted and mythified throughout: they ""all blocked Dylan's path of self-discovery, a path that demanded observation and attention and calmness and the time and space to be a light to oneself."" And Cott finds some mystical/creative silver-lining in each of Dylan's constant shifts of style and subject-matter (with high praise, for instance, for the film Renaldo and Clara)--though he does admit that there's ""something extremely unsettling"" about Dylan's propagandizing born-again songs. Unfortunately, in such an uncritical, woozy treatment, Dylan's very real artistic achievements and cultural-historical importance tend to get lost. So this book will only be for those content to soak up the grubbily nostalgic photos--or to nod along with Cott's numbing literary allusions, his veneration of the most banal Dylan utterances (""echoing Dante, Dylan sang, 'Love is all there is,/ It makes the world go 'round'""), his groupie-like tracking of Dylan's ""earthly and spiritual journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday