What’s that theory? The more books written about a particular subject suggests how little is really known? You’d easily apply that to Dylan – each year turning out more and more books with dubious angles; his 5th grade friend interviewed, exes, journalists who interviewed him once, the backstage hand who has one of his picks…
Add to that pile this “psychobiography” which attempts, through heavy-handed prose in its intro, to explain the psychology of Dylan – in particular around three key moments/conversions – his motorcycle accident, his born-again phase and his late-80s rejuvenation via The Neverending Tour. See there, all three phases have had tomes devoted to them already, so McCarron’s slim volume aims to dissect these moments in a hope to understanding something (more?) of Dylan’s psyche.
The big problem is that McCarron’s grasp of dates and moments in Dylan’s music is not strong. And Dylan fans are a savage lot – trainspotting and all – so this doesn’t sit well.
He does however write strongly about the religion – and has some interesting thoughts on the motorcycle crash.
Dylan himself covered a lot of the subject matter here in his memoir (are you still hoping for the two further volumes?) but I guess it was done in his typically opaque way. McCarron’s aim – to shine the light – is somewhat hit and miss.
The big problem with this book is that it wanted to be something other than just a set of essays dissecting the already plentiful bios and essay collections. But in the end all it really does is point you towards those – or back to those; the bigger, sharper volumes by the likes of Clinton Heylin and Griel Marcus; the ones with the real insight. Or as close as we will get to rock’s most mercurial and mysterious genius.