Hundreds of books have been written about Minnesota's most famous songwriter; Bob Dylan's life and music has been analyzed by fans, scholars, and even himself. So, why do we need Toby Thompson's Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan's Minnesota? Because it's a forgotten milestone. Published in 1971, it was the first biography on Dylan. Although it's been out of print since 1977, the book is, with the exception of Dylan's autobiography, perhaps the most readable and necessary volume on the folk icon. In the late 1960s, Thompson, an untested young journalist, decided that he would take on the mother of all write-around pieces and head to Hibbing to document Dylan's roots. Inspired by Tom Wolfe and the emergence of New Journalism, Thompson wrote his first-person account of diving into his hero's murky past and how it changed Thompson as a fan and writer. His interviews with Dylan's former babysitter, relatives, and ex-girlfriend Echo Helstrom (the inspiration for "Girl from the North Country") give us equal insight into the singer's past and the writer's devotion. Most of the information about Dylan in the book has become common knowledge since it was published. But as this year's reprinting attests, the book's enduring appeal is Thompson's excited voice and willingness to test New Journalism's early possibilities.
Sun., May 25, 5 p.m., 2008
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