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Dylan's Visions of Sin

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  475 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Bob Dylan's ways with words are a wonder, matched as they are with his music and verified by those voices of his. In response to the whole range of Dylan early and late (his songs of social conscience, of earthly love, of divine love, and of contemplation), this critical appreciation listens to Dylan's attentive genius, alive in the very words and their rewards. "Fools the ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published July 26th 2005 by Ecco (first published June 15th 2004)
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3.70  · 
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 ·  475 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music-etc
I appreciated that Ricks doesn't ask the same silly questions that many do when they approach Dylan's songs. Don't ask me who Isis is, or why his Bob-ness would make her wedding date the fifth day of May. I don't give a hoot, and Ricks doesn't seem to either. He sticks to wordplay. (Although I could have used less wordplay at times. He didn't need to spend so much ink punning on lyrics. You are very well read, it's well known.)

I liked the way Ricks would bring in Keats or Shakespeare or Beckett
Maria Tortuga
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dylan fans and literary critics
If you don't think Dylan is a poetic genius, read this book and see if you don't change your mind. Be warned, this is not a light read, this is an intense literary criticism of his poetry and showcases how Dylan embraces, masters and pushes the limit of American and European literary tradition. If you don't know the works or at least the styles of some of the writers and poets referenced in this book, I think it would be a tough read. However, by extrapolating Dylan's literary inspiration and re ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
A noted literary scholar takes on Dylan’s songbook in a context of the Seven Deadly Sins, the Four Cardinal Virtues, and the Three Graces. Into the mix he throws the Bible (naturally), Milton, Dryden, Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson and others. Also into the mix are jumbled puns, word plays of various stripes and spots, Dylan-quoting both blind and paraphrased (don’t be reading this book if you can’t spot ‘em, Mr. Jones!) and cultural references wide and varied. In the end it is too much and too li ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A useful thing to have on the shelf for those times when the Dylan itch strikes. Ricks is a serious scholar, and makes comparisons to poets that I haven't thought of of read in years, but his analysis is, it seems to me, pretty spot-on. I have no doubt that Dylan has some familiarity with Gerald Manley Hopkins, for example, and that his familiarity has influenced and informed his work as much as his familiarity with Buddy Holly. That's the point of Bob Dylan, isn't it? It takes a serious student ...more
Mark Bruce
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
The problem with Dylan is that so many writers think they know exactly what he's talking about when, in truth, they have no idea. They roll off into the hinterlands on some pretentious journey parsing the words down to the smallest "is" or "of." This author has Dylan rictus. He has to find meaning in the most inconsequential of lines, such as his dissection of "Postively 4th Street" when he goes off on a jag about why "see you/be you" is some kind of genius. He's an idiot. Bob wrote those lines ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dylan, know-when-read
The worst ever book on Bob Dylan. Ricks, elsewhere, is a decent enough critic but here he completely embarrasses himself and us. The toe-curling wink-wink references to Dylan lyrics, the high-brow tone, the tortuous arguments all add up to a book not just worth throwing down but hurling across the room.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you are a Dylan fan, as I am, this book is both a treat and a revelation. I got an even deeper appreciation of the breath and depth of Bob's lyrical genius. The numerous allusions to the Bible and to poets such as Keats were amazing. With the variety and style of what are in effect poems, put to music, I simply couldn't imagine he does it. Christopher Ricks is a fellow fan of Dylan so he gives a warm and fair account of Dylan's rationale, that few critics can match. At times his writing style ...more
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Well, this was quite a let-down. Though it offers some amazingly close and insightful readings of various songs, its central thesis (tying Dylan's songs to the sins, virtues, and graces) is often strained, with the apparent point of the individual reading vying with the larger thesis. Furthermore, Ricks's writing suffers from the twin sins of excessive casualness (including a truly irritating number of non-sentences) and excessive cutesy referencing, mostly of Dylan lyrics. Aargh.
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dylan fans
Shelves: music
Great close-reading, the best of its kind I've read on pop music. He also avoids being academic-y, and he's playful with language in a fun way. It's a massive undertaking, though, and some of the selections seem a little forced into his schema.

Highlights: the section on rhyme, the reading of Larkin's "Love Songs in Age", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," and "Like a Rolling Stone."

Well worth it, and more enjoyable than you'd expect.
Jan 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is really a reference book for me, and thus will remain on my 'currently reading' list for a while. Ricks analysis of Dylan's poetry is highly academic, written for post-graduate English majors. I've read so much about Dylan though, that I find the need to dig deeper. This is very deep......
Steve Mayer
Mar 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awfully clever, but couldn’t get past page 72. Sorry, Bob.
Comprehensive and sometimes comprehensible. The book is original in its approach, important in its thesis, interesting, and really, really long. Ricks provides what we didn't know we lacked: a psycho-social one-volume commentary on Dylan's views of justice and aberration, with literary context and evaluation. (I say this affectionately: I like Christopher Ricks shyly and enormously.)

If at times you suspect that Ricks was up late with Blonde on Blonde and growing far too earnest, I can tell you y
Skylar Burris
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, christianity
This is not a book for fans of Dylan so much as it is a book for students of poetry. You need to be a fan of Dylan, yes, but that is not nearly enough. To enjoy this book, you probably have to be a fan of classic poetry, very well versed in Dylan's lyrics, someone who has read the Bible and is aware of basic religious concepts, and a person who is interested in literary criticism. Which is to say that this book has a very limited audience.

Visions of Sin is not overly academic, but there are mome
Chuck McCabe
Nov 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dylan freaks
I was a Dylan fan early enough to have lamented his electrification (but got over it), and since I also grew up on Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range just 30 miles from Bobbie Zimmerman's home, I've always felt a close afinity. Christopher Ricks is one of the presiding critics of poetry on today's literary scene, and in Visions he applies his enormous knowledge of English poetry and other literature to closely reasoned interpretations of maybe a dozen or so of Dylan's songs. As the title implies, Ric ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-culture
Dylan is a serious literary genius: confirmed, one too many warnings and a 1000 times removed. Ricks views Dylan's lyrics (and songs…Ricks makes the point that songs differ from poetry in that songs are poetry, music AND performance, a factor that often plays in Ricks analysis) through the lens of the seven deadly sings, four cardinal virtues and three heavenly graces.

Ricks is a serious literary critic and approaches Dylan as such. Ricks also loves Dylan's wordplay and plays with words in his a
5 Track
Nov 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow ... awesome close analysis of Uncle Bob's lyrics ... no celebrity-gossip or simple j malarkey, just rhyme schemes and perspectives on content. The conceptual conceit - "visions of sin" - has very little to do with what's actually in the book, just serves as a vehicle or even an excuse to look at particular lyrics ... otherwise how would you choose from so much good material?? Although the steam does seem to run out in the last 3rd or so
Jay Daze
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took a long time to read this one. It's very dense with close readings of individual songs and it will really, really help if you can listen to the songs as you go. When I didn't have the song, I found I just drifted a bit into abstraction not having the actually work to compare to Ricks' masterful readings. My favourite section was on Dylan's "Moonlight" with its links to Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale", made me want to search out Keats!
Eric Phillips
Mar 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Rick's explanations can be a bit to close as far as close readings go, but he does add some interesting insights into some of the songs, and while the organizing premise of the book -- the seven deadly sins, the four virtues (or whatever) seems a bit forced, as a sort of piecemeal read (what does he say about this song) its fun.
Lawrence A
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, with both an academic gravitas and a whimsical flair, addressing the poetics in the songs of Bob Dylan, Dylan's obvious interest in the 7 deadly sins, the 4 virtues, and the 3 graces, as well as his obvious artistic debt to the Psalmists, the various authors of the Bible, T.S. Eliot, and Alfred Tennyson. Highly recommended.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this volume a five star review not because I liked so much but because it is a sheer tome of deep thought in manys that few people could ever do. It certainly reads like a grad's student's thesis maybe it even was for all I know. It's intense and best enjoyed with listening to each song that he describes as you go through.
Simon Freeman
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who still doubts that Dylan is not a major 20th century literary figure should read this book by Christopher Ricks, Professor of Poetry at Oxford. After all it was Allen Ginsberg who said that Dylan was the most important poet of the second half of the twentieth century
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
This was perhaps a little much for my taste. Ricks' writing of how Dylan's songs reflect the sins/graces/virtues was interesting but at times I got bored reading at how the actual structure and rhyming scheme of the song worked.
Anastasia Herbert
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the way literary criticism ought to be written. Rick's exploration of Dylan's lyrics - as full-blown poetry - slips seamlessly between citation, gloss, and commentary. If this book does not, finally, establish Dylan as one of the foremost poets of our time, none will.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Hey, I liked it. It's no masterpiece but I can get pretty excited about really serious rocksnobbery. It's fun to read while listening to Dylan and it did contain a lot of insight that hadn't occured to me before.
Rob the Obscure
Ricks is a poet, English Professor, etc. His interest is in Dylan as poet. Ricks provides an exhaustive, detailed analysis of the theme of "sin" as it pervades Dylan's work.
James Fabris
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once I started reading this, I had a hard time stopping. I've been thinking about Dylan's lyrics for over 30 years now, and Ricks consistently gave me something new to think about.
Aug 18, 2007 rated it liked it
I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, and this was a bit hard to get through
Tom Choi
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: thin men
I'm lying... I never got past the intro
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say, I love me some Dylan.
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Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, FBA, is a British literary critic and scholar. He is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University (U.S.) and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford (England) from 2004 to 2009. He is the immediate past-president of the Association of Literary Scholars and ...more