Dylan Still Shines Behind the Shades; Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades by Clinton Heylin. Viking. Pounds 20.00
Byline: Daphne Abernethy
THIS is the fourth full-length biography of Bob Dylan, but it so far outclasses its predecessores that it may as well be the first.
Heylin is the first of Dylan's biographers to give equal attention to the full plan of his career, and he is the first to keep his undistracted attention on the most central issues: the relation between Dylan's art - the songs, the recordings, the performances - and the personal context out of which he created it.
The text may not be as juicy as some of the other works on Dylan, such as Anthony Scaduto's Bob Dylan, An Intimate Biography, or Robert Shelton's haphazard, but fascinating No Direction Home, but the story Heylin tells is more complete, more pertinent, and in the long run a lot more compelling.
He also devotes a large portion to Dylan's life and work in the 1970s and 1980s, which sets it apart.
The text is thoroughly researched with lots of interesting snippets from Dylan interviews as well as quotes from others who knew and worked with Dylan from childhood to the present day.
It is important to note, however, that Heylin received no help from the man himself, so many important questions remain unanswered.
On the other hand, Heylin's narrative is sustained by a workable but perfunctory notion of Dylan's life as the record of incessant challenges to 're-invent himself', in order to remain faithful to his demanding, difficult and ever-elusive muse. …