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Dylan Lauded For 'Chronicles'


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from www.billboard.com

Edited By Jonathan Cohen. January 24, 2005, 4:30 PM ET

Dylan Lauded For 'Chronicles'

Long considered rock'n'roll's poet laureate, Bob Dylan can now add literary laurels to his list of honors. The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has named Dylan's "Chronicles: Volume I" one of five nominees for best biography/autobiography.

The nod places Dylan alongside such luminaries as past bio winners Sylvia Nasar ("A Beautiful Mind"), Frank McCourt ("Angela's Ashes") and Philip Roth ("Patrimony: A True Story") and fellow 2005 bio nominees Ron Chernow ("Alexander Hamilton"); Stephen Greenblatt ("Will in the World"); John Guy ("Queen of Scots"); and Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan ("De Kooning: An American Master").

"That is just great, great news," Dylan scholar Sean Wilentz said when told of the nomination. "The book is so good, so spot-on. How many music autobiographies are there that are any good?" Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is up for a Grammy this year for best album notes for Dylan's "Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall," the sixth album in the "Bootleg Series."

"Chronicles: Volume I" traces Dylan's life from his 1961 arrival in Greenwich Village through a creative and commercial slump during the '70s, to his comeback in the late '80s. The book, to be followed by two more volumes, is as distinctive as his lyrics and as eccentric as his persona. (He writes more of a Louisiana shopkeeper named Sun Pie, who has served as his philosophical muse, than he does his encounters with the Beatles, who get barely a mention. He is, his bio reveals, a fan of Ice-T and Mickey Rourke.)

Wilentz could not recall Dylan ever being nominated for a literary award. But "he does recognize these things," the professor said. "He keeps his Oscar [for the song "Things Have Changed," from the 2000 film "The Wonder Boys"] on one of the amps at every concert."

The NBCC Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 25 at the New School in New York. Asked to speculate on whether Dylan might attend, Wilentz said, "God knows. You never know with Dylan. The question is: Will you recognize him? He may well be there with a wig on."

Since its publication by Simon & Schuster in October, "Chronicles" has sold more than 312,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. It is No. 5 on the bio/autobio bestsellers list for the week ending Jan. 16, having sold nearly 4,300 copies that week.

-- Chuck Shelton, The Book Standard

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