Why Dylan Matters
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What to expect
‘At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan’ Mary Beard
When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan in 2016, the literary world was up in arms. How could the world’s most prestigious book prize be awarded to a famously cantankerous singer-songwriter in his seventies, who wouldn’t even deign to make a victory speech?
In Why Dylan Matters, Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas answers that question with magisterial erudition. A world expert on Classical poetry, Thomas was initially ridiculed by his colleagues for teaching a course on Bob Dylan alongside his traditional seminars on Homer, Virgil and Ovid. Dylan’s Nobel prize win brought him vindication, and he immediately found himself thrust into the limelight as a leading academic voice in all matters Dylanological.
This witty, personal volume is a distillation of Thomas’s famous course, and makes a compelling case for moving Dylan out of the rock n’ roll Hall of Fame and into the pantheon of Classical poets. The most dazzlingly original and compelling Dylan book in decades, Why Dylan Matters will amaze and astound everyone from the first-time listener to the lifetime fan. You’ll never think about Bob Dylan in the same way again.
A GUARDIAN AND INDEPENDENT BEST MUSIC BOOK OF 2017
‘At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan. Richard Thomas takes us from Dylan’s high school Latin club to his haunting engagement with Ovid and Homer in recent albums. He carefully argues that Dylan’s poetry deserves comparison with Virgil’s – and Thomas, senior professor of Latin at Harvard and author of some of the most influential modern studies of Virgil, should know!’ Mary Beard
‘A poignant blend of memoir, literary analysis through a classical lens, musicology and, above all, love. [Thomas] loves Dylan with a passion so selfless and so intense that it’s impossible to emerge from the book untouched’ Guardian
‘Accessible and enjoyable … Richard F Thomas’s elegant, charming book offers something for everyone – not just the super-fans’ Independent
‘The book joyously bounces from topic to topic, mixing anecdotes about Dylan’s creative process, historical concerts, and wry press conferences with penetrating literary critique — and no shortage of Thomas’ own personal recollections of bonding with Dylan’s music. A highly informed, yet intimately personal celebration of one of our most important living writers — not despite, but because of the medium in which he writes’ NPR
‘Secures Dylan’s place in a pantheon of literary heroes from Virgil to Eliot. A critical breakthrough that makes a masterful case for why Dylan is the bard of our times’ Andrew McCarron, author of Light Come Shining: The Transformations of Bob Dylan
‘Thomas’ outstanding, eminently readable, and beautifully bound work, answers that question in relation to his subject with a resounding ‘Yes’. Dylan matters. Emphatically’ Tribune
‘Listen to Bob Dylan in performance. But read this book for help on how to hear his lyrics’ Irish Examiner