New Book About Bob Dylan Focuses on ‘The Dylanologists’

In 2001, an intense Bob Dylan fan named Bill Pagel bought the Duluth, Minnesota house where Robert Zimmerman lived before he moved to Hibbing, Minnesota. Five years later, Pagel settled permanently in Hibbing and attempted to buy the other Zimmerman house, the one where Bob lived while growing up, attending high school, etc., before taking off for Minneapolis, New York and stardom.

Kind of puts ones own obsession in perspective — right?

Pagel is one of the serious Dylan fans that Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Kinney writes about in “The Dylanologists,” a book that will be published this May.

Kinney describes himself as a Dylan fan in the book’s introduction:

I first found Dylan in the dusty basement of my childhood home. In the summer before my junior year in high school I was flicking through a pile of vinyl left behind by my older brother. I found a heavy box with five records inside. The man glowering on the front cover looked like he didn’t take orders from anybody. I liked that. I pulled off the top of the box, slid one of the records from a sleeve, fitted the vinyl onto the turntable, and dropped the needle into the groove. The music started, and a switch flipped in my head.

Writer David Kinney.

The album was called Biograph, a retrospective of the first two decades of a recording career still very much in progress. Dylan’s folk ballads were jumbled together with wailing mid-1960s rock classics; his gospel songs shared space with tomfoolery. A maid is beaten to death. A good man is sent to jail. A husband abandons his wife to hunt for treasure with a shadowy figure, and all he finds is an empty casket. There were songs about girls, and war, and politics. I didn’t know who all the characters were: Johanna, Ma Rainey, Cecil B. DeMille, Gypsy Davy. I couldn’t honestly say I knew what Dylan was saying half the time. But the lines were riveting. I wore out those five records. I leaned every word and made them mine, and Dylan grew into an outsize figure in my universe.

I’ve just started reading advanced proofs of the book and it’s very good. There’s a great section in which Dylan shows up in Hibbing to attend a funeral, as seen from the perspective of Linda Hocking, co-owner of Zimmy’s Downtown Bar & Grill, who is hopeful that the great man will stop in for a meal at her restaurant — or at least a piece of cherry pie.

The interior of Zimmy’s in Hibbing, Minnesota.

After all, ten years earlier, shortly after the restaurant was renamed Zimmy’s and decorated with Dylan photos and other paraphernalia, Dylan’s mother Beatty stopped in for lunch, and when asked what she thought of the place, she replied: “Honey, it’s about time somebody did something nice for my son in Hibbing.”

Bob and his mother, Beatty.

Kinney seems to have combined a biography of Dylan with stories of obsessive fans and so far it’s working.

I’ll post a review in late April or early May, once I finish the book and it’s closer to the publication date.

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

3 thoughts on “New Book About Bob Dylan Focuses on ‘The Dylanologists’

  1. At Dylan Days 2011 in Hibbing, I met a writer whose name is definitely David and probably Kinney. He seemed like a serious, sober fan and student of Dylan’s art working to say something important, and say it well, about the great troubadour and the fans whose lives he has opened up and enriched. Among Bobsessives, it’s easy to lose one’s way, as well as one’s mind. But David struck me as a level-headed author who might be on to something and whose book, when written and published, might well be worth reading.

    I can’t help wondering if the David whom I met is this David Kinney, author of “Dylanologists.” I think so, but can’t be sure. In any case, I look forward to reading the book. See you guys in Hibbing on the occasion of Bob’s 75th (2016)!

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