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No Direction Home:
Robert Shelton, a critic for the New York Times in 1961, caught an early Bob Dylan gig at Folk City in Greenwich Village and wrote an effusive review for the newspaper. The coverage in the Times was a huge boost to the career of the then-struggling folksinger, and Shelton and Dylan became friends, seeing each other frequently around the Village folk scene. When Shelton, in the 1980s, finally got around to finishing his full-length biography of Dylan, he could draw upon a wealth of insider stories from the early days. The book is naturally strongest when describing Dylan's early career, from his coffeehouse gigs as a Woody Guthrie disciple to the insanely high artistic peaks of the mid-'60s. A particularly engaging passage concerns a freeform interview Shelton conducted with Dylan as they flew high above the Midwest in early 1966; Shelton's memories of Dylan are essential reading for fans. Shelton saw much less of the notoriously private Dylan as the years passed, and the book loses momentum as he becomes less of an eyewitness and more of a distant observer, though Dylan's story is credibly told up through the mid-1980s. --Robert McNamara [via]