By David Browne
July 19, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades

C
type
  • Book

Perhaps because Bob Dylan’s career has been such a puzzling mess, there’s still no biography worthy of it. Despite its claim to being the most comprehensive book yet on the voice of his generation, Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades is mostly glass-eyed. In an admirable departure from the usual, Clinton Heylin, cofounder of a Dylan ”information office” in Britain, devotes as much space to Dylan’s post-’70s career as to his heyday. There are amusing anecdotes detailing Dylan’s chaotic work methods, a few glimpses into his mysterious private life, and interpretations of his religious flip-flops. But Heylin lets his idol off too easily (he never questions the 1966 motorcycle accident, which many believe was a cover-up for a nervous breakdown) and avoids big questions in favor of such numbing factoids as a rundown of which songs Dylan played in concert in the ’80s. Caught up in such pointless details, Heylin never resolves the mystery of what makes Dylan tick and why we still care. Behind the Shades does take us a little bit behind the frames, but it’s still pretty dark back there. C

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