Paul Williams – “Bob Dylan: Watching the River Flow – Observations on His Art-In-Progress 1966-1995” (1996)

October 19, 2008 at 10:41 pm (Bob Dylan, Reviews & Articles)



Written on Sept. 16, 2001 about this Paul Williams book about Bob Dylan…

I have enjoyed this book & the two others Paul Williams has written about Dylan’s music & also the one he wrote on Neil Young’s music. The Performing Artist volumes are more scholarly & well-thought-out (I’m still waiting anxiously for volume 3 in the series) but this book (& the Young book) are written more from a fan’s viewpoint. But a fan who really knows his subject. Williams can be rambling & eccentric at times but his enthusiasm for his subject’s work is so infectious, you find yourself caught up in his thoughts & feelings. He definitely makes you want to run to your stereo & play Dylan’s albums. And that is what the job of a good critic should be. He makes you even want to run & play albums that he doesn’t like, just so you can see what he’s talking about. He writes these essays in a very excited enthusiastic manner. He is someone who really listens & studies & tries to get everything out of a recording that you can possibly get. And he makes you want to do the same. He makes you want to look at all kinds of art the same way – to really spend time looking, listening, reading & watching. He tries to teach you how to truly appreciate art. That is a hard task in the time that we live in, where everything has to be consumed in a half hour. We treat art (movies, albums, books, etc.) in a very impatient, cynical manner – waiting to be entertained, instead of putting some effort into it, to truly get all that can be gotten out of it. He points out that to appreciate art in a deep & lasting way, we also have to put some effort into it – not just the person who created the art. We’re part of the creation as well.
I can read these essays over & over again – which I have. I truly wish there had been a lot more. As someone else pointed out, Williams’ writing is like a performance itself. He doesn’t worry much about saying something the correct way – he just unleashes his thoughts in a mad, rambling way (often repeating himself) that truly grabs you. It’s nothing but a joy to read this man. And I really trust his opinion on Dylan’s work. Like Lester Bangs, he really is a fan of music & his reviews & essays are as much about himself as the people he writes about. They are worth reading, even if you don’t agree with them. But unlike most critics, Williams gives you his own personal opinion but doesn’t assume that you feel the same way or that you should feel the same. I look forward to several more books on Dylan, Young or anybody else he may want to share his opinions about. Definitely get this book. It’s a must for Dylan fans & an even bigger must for people who have never gotten into Dylan’s music. If this doesn’t get you to listen with “new” ears, nothing will.


Jay Mucci

1 Comment

  1. joshlobley said,

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