Dylan Officially Lauded For Literary Greatness

"Chronicles" tapped for National Book Critics award.

Eight-time Grammy winner Bob Dylan, long considered rock-'n'-roll's poet laureate, can now add literary laurels to his list of honors. The National Book Critics Circle has named Dylan's Chronicles: Volume I one of five nominees for best biography/autobiography.

The nod places Dylan alongside such luminaries as past bio winners Sylvia Nasar (A Beautiful Mind), Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes) and Philip Roth (Patrimony: A True Story) and fellow 2005 bio nominees Ron Chernow (Alexander Hamilton); Stephen Greenblatt (Will in the World); John Guy (Queen of Scots); and Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan (De Kooning: An American Master).

"That is just great, great news," Dylan scholar Sean Wilentz, said to the Book Standard when told of the nomination. "The book is so good, so spot-on. How many music autobiographies are there that are any good?" Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is up for a Grammy this year for Best Album Notes for Dylan's "Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall," the sixth album in the "Bootleg Series."

Chronicles: Volume I traces Dylan's life from his 1961 arrival in Greenwich Village through a creative and commercial slump during the '70s, to his comeback in the late '80s. The book, to be followed by Vols. II and III, is as distinctive as his lyrics and as eccentric as his persona. (He writes more of a Louisiana shopkeeper named Sun Pie, who has served as his philosophical muse, than he does his encounters with the Beatles, who get barely a mention. He is, his bio reveals, a fan of Ice-T and Mickey Rourke.)

Wilentz could not recall Dylan ever being nominated for a literary award. But "he does recognize these things," the professor said. "He keeps his Oscar [for the song "Things Have Changed," from the film The Wonder Boys] on one of the amps at every concert."

The NBCC Awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 25 at the News School in New York. Asked to speculate on whether Dylan might attend, Wilentz said, "God knows. You never know with Dylan. The question is: Will you recognize him? He may well be there with a wig on."

Might this portend a National Book Awards nom? "Hey," Wilentz said, "why not the Pulitzer?"

Since its publication by Simon & Schuster in October, Chronicles has sold more than 312,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, putting it at No. 5 on the bio/autobio bestsellers list for the week ending Jan. 16. It sold nearly 4,300 copies that week.