... makes phenomenally captivating reading for any Dylan devotée, revealing unseen dimensions of the mercurial Nobel laureate, and much to surprise and delight even careful readers of Heylin’s earlier work ... represents a dramatic shift away from the oral history that informed Behind the Shades, and updates Heylin’s take on Dylan with more than the new material unearthed in the Dylan Archive. The new book also considers the range of Dylan scholarship, analysis, and biographical works produced in the last 20 years, and presents itself to a great degree as a corrective to faulty and misleading memories and myths made real by endless retelling ... the real excitement and joy of this book emerges from Heylin’s discussion and analysis of copious party tapes, bootlegs, between-takes conversations and outbursts, combative and occasionally revealing interviews, contracts and related documents, and hand-scrawled manuscript revisions that he weaves into a fresh and engaging narrative ... But even after countless Dylan biographies—two of the best of them by Heylin himself—in A Restless, Hungry Feeling, the journey through Dylan’s back pages to these familiar moments reads like a story untold.
If anyone is entitled to write this exhaustive biography, it’s the man who was described by Rolling Stone in 2016 as 'perhaps the world’s authority on all things Dylan.' And if he is as jaw-droppingly good at his job as his subject is at music, Heylin can also be just as prickly. He takes delicious pleasure in throwing darts at Dylan’s other chroniclers, calling one a 'minor writer,' another a 'largely unloved scribe' ... In other words, this first installment of The Double Life is a twofer: Not just one but two big, colorful egos are on display.
Peppered with fact-checking footnotes to point out where others have got it wrong (or where Dylan has lied), the book really comes alive at the beginning and the end, when Heylin goes beyond the endless details to capture his subject’s situation with sympathy ... some fascinating revelations ... for depth of research alone, is hugely impressive. Unfortunately, it can also be hugely annoying. The tone jumps from lofty to faux hip: people are forever penning this and opining that, while Dylan himself is described as a 'young tyke' twice in the space of two pages. Heylin has got to the bald truth, not by speaking to Dylan (who cannot be trusted), but by scraping through his relics. And everything he has found is put on display rather than buried into the story. It is the opposite approach to Dylan, who hid the truth to let the magic shine ... I can’t share Heylin’s astoundingly high regard for his own work, but if you do want to strip away the mystery and get a logbook on Dylan’s inescapable reality in time for his 80th birthday in May, this is the one for you.