Posts Tagged ‘Highway 61 Revisited’

Highway 61 Revisited, new University of Minnesota book: recommended, B+

July 29, 2009

Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road From Minnesota To The World is an intermittently fine addition to the Dylan bookshelf.

Inevitably in a collection of 20 essays (originally delivered as papers at a 2007 symposium), it’s patchy, its chapters veering from the must-read to the, frankly, risible.

Half a dozen of Highway 61 Revisited’s articles cover important aspects of Dylan’s art, and do it with enviable expertise.

The star piece is Bob Dylan’s Memory Palace by Robert Polito, a minute dissection of Dylan’s literary references on the last few albums – from Ovid, Timrod, but oh so many more.

David Yaffe on Dylan’s debt to black musics, Charles Hughes on Civil Rights, Marilyn Chiat on the Jewish settlement of the Iron Range and Anne Waldman on the Beats are original and illuminating.

A second group of papers is solid, workmanlike, without adding much to the knowledge or perspective of the seasoned Dylan buff, though they will inform the book’s primary (student) market.

Several contributions are so peripheral that it crossed my mind that they might be put-ons.

As the Dylan book market grows, the rock scribes with limited horizons who used to rule the roost are being elbowed out by salaried intellectuals; many of them, bright and well-educated, have a lot to offer the seeker after Zim Truths.

Highway 61 Revisited is a welcome addition to the library. Place its best pieces alongside the pick of the recently published Cambridge Companion (reviewed on The Dylan Daily on 29 May) and it’s clear that Dylan Studies is coming of age, successfully addressing the mass market as well as the callow strollers in the Groves of Academe.

Recommended: B+.

Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road From Minnesota To The World, edited by Colleen J Sheehy and Thomas Swiss, Minneapolis, University Of Minnesota Press, May 2009, pbk, 278pp, $22.95. ISBN 978-0-8166-6100-8

Gerry Smith