Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254
Chronicles is a memoir that Bob Dylan published in several volumes under his real name. In it, he reflects on his personal journey from his origins in Minnesota, through becoming a singer-songwriter in New York, to his growing reputation and enduring fame.
Zimmerman talks about the meaning of songwriting in general, and what some particular songs meant to him in contrast to their public reception. He experienced songs as his “guide into some altered consciousness of reality.” He moved away from the influence of popular culture, he insists, not because he wanted to stir up controversy. Rather,
I just thought of mainstream culture as lame as hell and a big trick. It was like the unbroken sea of frost that lay outside the window….
The major changes he wrought mid-career were necessary to continue living a creative life. Once he had become a household word, even an icon, he felt inescapably confined in his earlier persona.
Wherever I am, I'm a '60s troubadour, a folk-rock relic, a wordsmith from bygone days, a fictitious head of state from a place nobody knows.
Reflecting on the influence of his childhood in that unknown place, Zimmerman writes about the difficulty of capturing the ephemeral. One thing that had a major impact was his father’s death and returning to Minnesota for his funeral.
It seemed I'd always been chasing after something that moved - a car, a bird, a blowing leaf - anything that might lead me into some more lit place, some unknown land downriver.