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Editorial Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Sean Penn reading Bob Dylan's memoirs. It doesn't get any better than this. Dylan mixes his life with his music, his thoughts with his lyrics, and Sean Penn puts us right inside his head. Dylan and Penn are a perfect combination, spanning two generations of celebrity, making us feel the weight and breadth of life for Dylan and the people who have hung on his every word and note. —Chris Doheny

Publisher's Summary

Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One explores the critical junctions in his life and career. Through Dylan's eyes and open mind, we see Greenwich Village, circa 1961, when he first arrives in Manhattan. Dylan's New York is a magical city of possibilities: smoky, nightlong parties; literary awakenings; transient loves and unbreakable friendships. Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.

Revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan's thoughts and influences. Dylan's voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful, and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.

©2004 Bob Dylan; (P)2004 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Winner, Biography/Memoir, 2005
  • 2005 Quill Award Nominee
  • Grammy Award Nominee, Best Spoken Word Album, 2005

"Volume 1 of Dylan's memoirs was pretty cool to begin with. But to have it read by Sean Penn on audio takes it to a new level: the most talented songwriter of all time as performed by the most talented actor of his generation. Mr. Penn clearly has a blast inhabiting the role and navigating Dylan's jagged, impressionistic prose." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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  • Joseph
  • Somerset, Kentucky, United States
  • 11-10-16

Disappointed

Any additional comments?

The abridged version is disjointed, and Sean Penn seems disinterested. I was very disappointed. I had hoped for much more.

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Abridged ?!?!? Why? For the love of God, Why?!?!

Would you try another book from Bob Dylan and/or Sean Penn?

I love Dylan. Read this book when it was first published. I did not realize when I purchased it that it was abridged. (What an insult to the writer! Why?) Indeed, the things I remembered as most fascinating were omitted. Why? Who decided which of Dylan's words were superfluous? Why? To abridge a book is to butcher it. Why?

Who was your favorite character and why?

uh . . . Bob Dylan! His conversation with Sun Pie was memorable. I loved the question, "What do you pray for?' Dylan: "I pray that I can be a kinder person." Works for me!

What about Sean Penn’s performance did you like?

Bob Dylan's seeking voice is surprising different from his singing voice. I love both. Sean Penn is a suitable substitute.

What else would you have wanted to know about Bob Dylan’s life?

He promised three volumes. Loved Volume One. All I really want to do . . is read volume Two! And three!! Where are they?!?! I've been waiting twelve years.

Any additional comments?

Dylan claims he's only ever voted in one election, saying that back in the day "[His] favorite politician was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater." I kept waiting to hear that, hoping I could believe my ears when I could not believe my eyes. But that got abridged. sigh

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Wow

So good. Dylan is a fantastic writer. Sean Penn's simple delivery was perfect for this.

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fast reader

Sean Penn kept a fast pace, when savoring the story would be more appropriate, particularly since it is not very long.

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Mind blowing and Earth Shattering

Reveled in the immediacy of it all form-bending and authentic. Destiny clobbers ancient wisdom from hell's icey waters.

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  • Ben
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 05-10-15

Very disappointing.

While I love Bob Dylan, this memoir was rambling and disjointed. I cannot believe Rolling Stone rated this as the best rock memoir ever written. If you are a deep fan you will enjoy it.

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Five Star

Nice to hear where his head was back in the day. I worked at KMET Radio in LA. At that time, most listeners' were looking to music for direction and messages. What they found or not didn't hurt them. Honest and harmless that was then. Pat"Paraquat"Kelley

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  • Sarah
  • Balwyn, Australia
  • 07-01-14

Put me to sleep every time

What would have made Chronicles better?

I'm just not sure that it was written that well, or perhaps the abridged version made it seem that way. Perhaps a different reader may have made it more catching.

Would you be willing to try another book from Bob Dylan? Why or why not?

Perhaps not. I really had difficulty getting into this book.

Did Sean Penn do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

His voice is very sexy but as a reader it was not very catching and had more the effect of a relaxation tape. I would end up just zoning right out.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Honestly i had a hard time remembering actually what went on in this book, since i pretty much fell asleep most times I listened to it.

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  • Matthew
  • Singapore, Singapore
  • 11-20-13

Underwhelmed and Indifferent

Disclaimer: I am not the target demographic for this book. Before reading Chronicles, I had what can only be described as a passing acquaintance with Dylan's life, music and influence.

Dylan definitely assumes the reader will already know his "story", so offers instead a series of rambling, non-linear reminiscences. From my perspective, this was not an autobiography, but more like watching a shadow puppet version of a life story. I guess I can see how Dylan fans would find the timeline-free account and endless name-dropping appetizing, but I could only detect subtle wafts of interest. I’ve never read the unabridged text, but I fear this abridged version could be partially (or even totally) to blame for the confusing narrative.

About halfway through the book I decided to read the Wikipedia entry on Bob Dylan to get some context and grounding. Honestly, I found the Wikipedia entry more compelling than Chronicles.

Sure, it's poetic — some of the most lyrical lines I've read in a book. But that brings me to the plagiarism controversy. It's obvious Dylan pulled some of the books best phrases and ideas from other writers. But I don't have an inherent problem with that — Dylan even references the imitative and “borrowed” nature of his music in Chronicles. However, knowing this is a manuscript stitched together from found spare-parts, only confirmed my feeling that Chronicles really has much less to say than I was expecting. It does prove that Dylan is a talented bower bird.

Sean Penn gives a gruff and low performance, his voice dripping with burly apathy. I have to admit, Penn's celebrity does lend this recording an air of borrowed prestige. But if were judging the narration on quality alone, Penn’s performance is average at best. I’m afraid Sean’s indifferent style may have influenced my indifferent response to this reading.

On a positive note, the book did pique my interest in 1960's counterculture, and inspired me to learn more about the music, the politics and the issues of that time — three stars for whetting my appetite.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • pepej24
  • Guadalajara, Mexico
  • 06-02-12

This book is great, but the reading is abridged..

Dylan on Dylan! It's brilliant, enlightening and poetic. Unfortunately, this version is abridged; and that is a pity. Now I have to get the unabridged version. This is a document that cannot be read except in full. A life is in full, Dylan's life is fuller than most; and an abridgment is unexcusable. More so when read immaculately by Sean Penn.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful