January 20, 2011

The Jackal gets Dylan a book deal


Bob Dylan fans wondering what’s taking him so damn long to complete the follow-up to Chronicles: Volume One received something of an answer this week. It appears that, according to this story in Crain’s New York, Dylan’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie (a.k.a. The Jackal), has been holding up the show. Apparently Wylie had decided that volume one of Chronicles was not actually Dylan’s memoir and was trying to shop his “memoir” around to other publishers.

No doubt many will be confused by this–no one more so than Dylan’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, who holds the rights to the sequels–since it was pretty clear from the get-go that a memoir is exactly what the first book was. Let’s read a moment from the flap copy:

Elegiac observations are punctuated by jabs of memories, penetrating and tough. With the book’s side trips to New Orleans, Woodstock, Minnesota and points west, Chronicles: Volume One is an intimate and intensely personal recollection of extraordinary times.

By turns revealing, poetical, passionate and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan’s thoughts and influence…a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.

Now, I’m not a lexicographer, but if I were looking for a definition for the word memoir, I think that “an intimate and intensely personal recollection” might be a good place to start. And even thought fans might have complained that Dylan didn’t dish on Joan Baez’s bad morning breath or tell us what he really thinks about the Wallflowers (come on, if you’re a Dylan fan, did you really expect him to?), there’s no question as to how the first book was marketed.

But according to an editor quoted in the the Crains story familiar with the deal, Wylie was asserting that Chronicles was merely ”nonfiction stories’ from his life and not a memoir.” This of course gave him justification to go shop Dylan’s “memoir” around to other publishers.

The story does have a happy ending I suppose. Fearing law suits, no other publishers were eager to take on the “memoir” from Wylie. Now Dylan has signed a new six-book deal with Simon & Schuster which includes (!?!) the two sequels to Chronicles: Volume One as well as “a collection of riffs” from his “Theme Time Radio Hour” on Sirius XM.