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The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  230 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Bob Dylan was the most influential songwriter of his time. Half a century later, he continues to be a touchstone, a fascination, and an enigma. From the very beginning, he attracted an intensely fanatical cult following, and in The Dylanologists, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney ventures deep into this eccentric subculture to answer the question: What can ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Simon & Schuster
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Paul Bryant
May 24, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: bob-dylan
A peculiar, fast-moving and queasily unpleasant gamut of emotions passed through me as I raced through this book about Dylan fans.

Gamut ? That’s a word like petard. You only use it in one context. A gamut of emotions. You don’t say “a gamut of vegetables was displayed on the market stall”… “I encountered a gamut of children in the schoolroom”…. Well, we should liberate this word from its phrasal confinement. But calling the grotesques foregathered in this book “fans” is like calling Eilert Pila
Jan 24, 2014 Joseph rated it liked it
Shelves: music
Dylanologists:Adventures in the Land of Bob by David Kinney is a mix of Bob Dylan biography and part overzealous fanbase. Kinney is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has worked forThe New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. His previous book is The Big One: An Island, an Obsession, and the Furious Pursuit of a Great Fish -- a book about Martha’s Vineyard.

I would imagine that there are few people alive today who do not know who Bob Dylan is or who cannot name a few lines
Like most Dylan fans, I will never forget my first exposure to his music. Most of us have had our "moment," and mine was simple, but unforgettable. I was in high school, I had just gone through my first "serious" breakup. I stumbled across a copy of Blood on the Tracks on my dad's shelf, decided to listen to it, and the rest is history. I got online, joined some forums, and downloaded as many studio and bootleg albums as I could. I've listened to Bob Dylan semi-obsessively ever since.

Now to my
Sep 22, 2014 Chazzbot rated it really liked it
Do not mistake this book as either a Dylan biography or a critical assessment of his work. While these elements are occasional components of the text, Kinney's contribution to Dylan lore is more unique and potentially more rewarding. By examining a variety of hard-core, obsessive Dylan fans, Kinney opens a potential Pandora's box of crazy. What elevates his project is his straightforward, objective portrayal of the fans and their habits and even their justifications. For the most part, Kinney's ...more
Jul 09, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob" authored by award winning music writer David Kinney was an unexpected intriguing read. The topic of exuberant scholars, professors, fans/followers totally obsessed with Bob Dylan that dedicate their lives to listening and analyzing his music, collecting bootleg tapes, scraps of paper- anything Dylan, stalking him- going to all his concerts, living their lives to meet him or have him notice/speak to them is almost a bit much to comprehend.
Phil Melton
May 18, 2014 Phil Melton rated it it was amazing
One of the best Dylan related titles ever written. Interspersed with accounts of the Bob devotees is a concise Dylan chronology recounting key events in his career that serves to tie everything together. Recommended for all Dylan fans, though dedicated fans of any artist will recognize the types of people profiled here.
Dec 05, 2014 Jeff rated it it was ok
On a page near the end of his book, the author reminds us that, "In the summer of 2012, the Dylan myth-making operation sprang to life again. A new record was coming out, Tempest." Funny, you would think, from the disenchanted tone of this, that Kinney had not treated with narrative sympathy for two hundred pages those-who-live-to-pursue-the-myth. The journalist travels to meet them and unquestioningly record their lore, reports on their methods, follows their leads, responds to their nonce exeg ...more
May 23, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
Well, it's not like this is the story of my life or anything. I see myself in most every page here.

It's a well-done and readable story of Dylan and focuses on some of his more, er, serious fans and their stories over the last 40 years. It tells some of Dylan's story -- very well, and not just the well-known parts -- and how many people reacted to that story. In the 70s and 80s, it's the story of bootleg recordings and concerts, and disconnected fans reaching out to one another, and then with the
Jun 20, 2015 Glenn added it
Whether you're a Dylan fanatic or just someone who is interested enough in Bob to read an occasional book or article about him, check out this book. (out in paperback now). Kinney has tracked down well over a dozen people whose lives are defined by Bob Dylan: some follow him around the world attending nearly every concert; some collect and catalog recordings of every concert; some make pilgrimages to sites where he grew up; some search to find hidden meanings in his songs. Cleverly structured, ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Richard rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014
Might have made a good magazine article, but it got padded into a book, and it's something of a bore.

Rehashed Dylan biography - nothing new, and that's the padding. The rest has to do with time spent with various folks who have made an obsession of Dylan. Concert followers, restaurant owners, academics, and assorted nut cases. Interesting to a point, but the point comes pretty fast.

I read it because it's hard for me to pass up on a Dylan book, and it felt like a self-inflicted punishment.

The Lan
Jul 07, 2015 Adrian added it
A book about the craziness of Dylan's fans. Some collect his memorabilia, others his music, some look for lost tapes, follow him and his tour to every corner of the earth, illegally tape his concerts and perhaps most maddening of all parse the lyrics of his songs for hidden meaning. The obsession is by turns funny, freaky and pathetic (and makes you glad you never caught the bug). Most of these people are doing something they love so there is that. Best line of the book? "Once you own Bob ...more
Jul 18, 2014 Tommy rated it liked it
An evenhanded look at Dylan obsessives, from those who follow him on tour to those who have devoted their lives to unraveling his many mysteries.

My favorite line in the book, explaining an obsessed fan's desire to buy up as many Dylan artifacts as he could afford, including Bob's childhood home: "Once you own Bob Dylan's highchair, it becomes easy to rationalize any other purchase..."

I'll stick with owning the CDs, and letting Bob be Bob from a safe distance. He likes me better that way.
Jun 03, 2014 christa rated it really liked it
In “The Dylanologists,” Dylan fan David Kinney considers the fandom of other Dylan fans, a mix that includes the guy who owns the musician’s childhood home, bootleg collectors, tour followers and those who feel a sort of religious reverence for him. Kinney mixes in bits of biography for context.

People’s passions are a curious thing, huh. This book is simply interesting, entertaining and it’s a good way to look at the artist through different, more extreme, eye holes.
Anastasia Karel
May 07, 2015 Anastasia Karel rated it it was amazing
Excellent book and a very fast read. The author weaves Dylan's biography into the stories of fans in a way that made me want to keep reading.
May 21, 2015 Debbie rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I think it was 1974 when Blood on the Tracks came out. Why do I say 'think'? I don't know for a fact because I'm not a super huge Dylan aficionado and I don't really care enough about Dylan to look up the date. In 1974 I was 11. Someone close to me was 15 or 16. That person fell in love with Dylan after hearing Blood on the Tracks. He became a lifelong fan and tried to convert me to the cause at a tender age. At first the repeated playings felt like torture. It was horrible to have to be forced ...more
They don't call them 'fans' for nothing. Fanatics crowd Beatle web sites wondering about the love (if any) George had for Paul or the type of microphone they used when recording 'Hey Bulldog'. Stones fans argue incessantly as to the greater guitarist - Mick T or Ronnie or Brian? But Dylan fans, as David Kinney so beautifully shows in 'The Dylanologists', are as fanatically obsessed as the Medieval Christians who sold everything for a piece of the one true Cross and whose exegesis of Scripture is ...more
Gail Ofterdinger-Ledgister
Aug 24, 2014 Gail Ofterdinger-Ledgister rated it it was amazing
As a preteen when Dylan achieved his first commercial successes, I, too, fell under the spell of his lyrics and recordings. It was intriguing to read of his literary influences and the meaning behind the meaning of some of his texts. I had little knowledge of his not-so-poor background (his mother owned a fur coat?)from an upstate Minnesota town. He practically sewed himself to the side of his dying idol, Woody Guthrie, and learned that idolatry is fraught with myth. What a hoot to read of the ...more
Christine Miller
Jul 26, 2016 Christine Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Life facing the stage.

This history of the followers and analyzers and writers about Dylan still continues. The Never Ending Tour tours on. The obsession of these followers and fans, although that word seems weak, somehow, is fascinating. I didn't know there was a group who dedicated so much of their lives to this. The Never Ending Following sounds expensive and exhausting. Leaving, or I don't see how it leaves, much time for finding who they are on their own life journey. Followers of Bob? Think
Mike Goldstein
Jul 26, 2015 Mike Goldstein rated it liked it
Interesting bits of biography are sprinkled throughout, but the real focus of the book is the obsessive fan. If you've ever wondered why Bob is so mean, well here's your answer. Seeing him interact with the characters profiled in this book was really illuminating, and watching Dylan change through the eyes of an obsessive is a fun perspective.

I came to this book with an interest in the deep reading of Dylan lyrics. The chapters that explore Bob's obscure appropriations were definitely my favorit
Mar 10, 2016 Charlie rated it liked it
In passing, Kinney happens to mention the irony of a balding man sporting a moustache. Perhaps with the same irony, "The Dylanologists" turns out to be another Bob Dylan biography. Yet unlike others, it seems more complete as a biography because the author comes to Dylan's story through the door of his fans. It makes for an interesting and equally satisfying work, and causes you to realise how much of the "obvious" might have been overlooked by other Dylan biographers: the audience. You know, ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it
A terrific book you can read over the course of a weekend, The Dylanologists is amusing, shocking, and sad. The opening of the book is perfect: "It starts with the voice. One day we hear its strange, broken glory, and before long everyone else in our lives would rather jam ice picks into their ears than listen to another Bib Dylan song." David Kinney writes as if he were contributing to the New Yorker without the irony: he treats his subjects well and doesn't pose as their superior. The chapter ...more
Dave Friedman
Jun 20, 2016 Dave Friedman rated it it was ok
The book uses portraits of Dylan's most obsessive fans as an entry to telling the story of his career. It's boring. There's no passion in the telling of the fan's stories, merely a repetitive checklist of events they all have in common: the revelatory moment of exposure, the pursuit of tapes and collectibles, a fanzine, touring. Just like the fans, you spend your time waiting for the appearance of Dylan. It's his story which captivates and the biography portions are ultimately the book's ...more
Steve Bennett
Aug 21, 2014 Steve Bennett rated it really liked it
It is reassuring to know that there are Bob Dylan fans way more whacked in the head than I am. This book follows people who dedicate their lives to following Dylan around the country (or the world) often to the detriment of their mental health and always to the detriment if not the demise of their employment and families. So I'm starting to feel good about myself. Another positive is that the book was professionally written by someone who knows how to write. Way too often these Dylan books are ...more
John Bastin
Jun 18, 2014 John Bastin rated it really liked it
Bob Dylan - many of his fans follow him, research him and such to the point of fanaticism or obsession. This isn't a book about Dylan so much but about the fanatical followers and their lives in the land of Bob. Following him from state to state or country to country trying to attend all his concerts, peruse newspapers, Internet sites and such accumulating as much data about him as possible. Recording concerts (even though it's prohibited) and then trading tapes.

This book talks about them, follo
Matt Good
Mar 17, 2015 Matt Good rated it really liked it
Generally an enjoyable read for a moderate to severe Dylan fan. A little too much background/explanation of major Dylan events (I can't imagine anyone who picked this book off the shelf not knowing this information). The chapter on Dylan as either the great cultural assimilator or the great plagiarist was especially insightful. I definitely fall in the former camp despite my reluctance to take the same argument to its furthest extent in my review of Greil Marcus's Basement Tapes book. If you ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Peveril rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Dylan obsessives
Earkier chapters are okay about Dylan PEOPLE but too much biog recap of the mans story I've read so many versions of already. Past midway when talking about Love and Theft and Chronicles and tracking D's "borrowings" it was mostly new to me and much more interesting. Some of the fan characters through to the end were Intersting to read about but scary crazy and I'm happy to stay far from the front row at dylan gigs!
Two stars for half and just three for the rest. Not likely I'd read this twice.
Adam Bricker
Jul 18, 2015 Adam Bricker rated it really liked it
Part mini-biography and part fan-sposé, this book was like nothing I've read before. Info and interview quotes from Bob Dylan are mixed with stories and background on the people that chase him. Some people would/could/should look at the fans in this book and judge them, but the author does a good job of saying why they shouldn't. How do you judge fandom? The people featured in this book and, while they may take it to the extreme, who hasn't been touched by a rock star, author, sports team, ...more
Susan Horan
Aug 23, 2015 Susan Horan rated it liked it
This examination of hardcore Bob Dylan fans and collectors makes me grateful that Dylan keeps a healthy distance from his fans. I would too if there were that many nutcases looking to me for the meaning of life. The man is always going to be an enigma, and trying to figure him out is like banging your head against a wall. The most important thing I took away from this book is that Dylan fans need to separate the man from the music and interpret his songs in their own way.
Aug 21, 2014 Reverenddave rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-culture, music
This seemed the perfect confluence: I love both Dylan and books exploring weird and obsessive subcultures. Yet, I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. While there were many interesting stories in it, ultimately it felt less like an immerse examination of the diverse world of Dylan fandom and more a series of stories of Dylan fans and their travels to see him on tour.

Still, a lot of decent stuff in the book.
Jun 22, 2014 Betty rated it really liked it
I received this book at no charge through The book was not what I expected, but I was surprised by the knowledge gained about Bob Dylan. We saw him in concert in Portland, Oregon a couple years ago and were disappointed by the performance. If I had read this book before the concert I'm sure I would have appreciated it more. As gathered from the book, Dylan is ever changing and this is reflected through those who follow him (Dylanologists).
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