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Yet more about Bob Dylan in new essay collection

So, we’re moved from the era of "Dylanology" to Dylan Studies, say the editors of a new collection of essays about the singer/poet’s life and work.

This means one of two things: Either Bob Dylan’s music and biography have been so thoroughly dissected that his most academic fans have now settled for discussing each others’ writings about Dylan. (Bob himself might suggest these folks move on, and listen to some other good music. There’s an awful lot of it out there.)

Or another thought is the grim reality that a world without Bob is on the horizon. The occasional near-death experience combined with the passing of the years may be whipping the rock critics and academics into a fever of pre-mortem homage.

I grew up a bike ride away from Dylan’s rural Minnesota home, and the memory of that plain and lonely looking house surrounded by security lighting has always left me thinking that the guy deserves to be left in peace. How weird it must be for the living to be so minutely scrutinized.

"Being noticed can be a burden," Dylan has said. But not so much that he’s stopped making music, fortunately. There is a new record, "Together Through Life," and it’s better than good. But if listening leads you to reading, "Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s Road From Minnesota to the World" (University of Minnesota Press) offers some fresh illumination — and the best of it focuses less on the man and more on his influences.

Instead of thinking about Hibbing, Minnesota, as the place Robert Zimmerman got away from, consider it as the place that made Bob Dylan. Greil Marcus visited Hibbing, and wrote about the city’s gloried past as a civic center, arts mecca and stage for the labor movement’s great victories and losses in "Hibbing High School," a piece that reveals this about the city’s grand high school campus: "Outside of Washington, D.C., it’s the most impressive public building I’ve ever seen," he writes, and extols its many dazzling virtues: A war memorial, majestic murals depicting Minnesota history, and the auditorium, with "stained glass everywhere," imported chandeliers, and seating for 1,800. "Anybody on that stage could see kingdoms waiting," says Marcus, of the stage where Dylan played with his high school bandmates.

He did move on, of course, and other essays discuss his impact on the world beyond Minnesota, including Italy, Japan, New York, and the U.K. Dylan traveled across time, race, and gender via music, and many of the writers in this collection connect the influence of a vast library of music and writing to Dylan’s own work. The musician is a serious student of other artists’ work, and Mick Cochrane reads Dylan’s XM Radio show, "Theme Time Radio Hour," as an alternative autobiography in which Dylan plays the music that made him who he is and the musicians that he met along the way.

Since Dylan’s written autobiography is so very selectively told, these essays and all of Dylan Studies helps fill in the gaps of that story — if you really must know everything about another person. On the other hand, so do his songs.

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