Anne Margaret Daniel in The Spectator:
‘There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’ Lord Henry Wotton said that. It is always better to read Bob Dylan than to read about him. I said that. Two new books by Dylan, and two about him, prove my point. Just out in a lovely slim hardback is Dylan’s Nobel lecture (Simon & Schuster, £14.99). Its 32 pages have already been well picked over and much written about, but Dylan’s own account of the way he took ‘folk lingo’ and ‘fundamental’ literary themes — by way of Moby-Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and the Odyssey — to write ‘songs unlike anything anybody ever heard’ should be both read and heard. There are differences in the recorded and printed version to keep fans and Dylanologists busy, of course; is it ‘Lord Donald’ or ‘Lord Darnell’, more likely, whose ballad he invokes? A signed limited edition of the lecture can be yours for £1,900 or so.
100 Songs is a selection made not by Dylan himself but by the publisher (Simon & Schuster, £14.99). It performs the difficult feat of presenting only that number of original songs from a canon of close to six times this. Beginning with ‘Song to Woody’, written by a 19-year-old for Woody Guthrie, the dying hero he came to New York City to find in the frozen early days of 1961, and ending with four songs from Tempest (2012), the collection spans Dylan’s professional career of six decades, and counting. According to a recent interview in Harvard Magazine, Richard Thomas, the George Martin Lane professor of classics there, ‘sat down at his keyboard a couple of weeks after the announcement last fall of Dylan’s Nobel prize in literature’. He finished Why Bob Dylan Matters six months later .