I hope that those of you who enjoyed the first instalment of The Double Life of Bob Dylan will forgive the subsequent silence, but I have been busy completing – and for the past year supervising the copy-editing, proof-reading and production of – The Double Life of Bob Dylan Vol. 2. Because it is a monster – 850 pages+. But then, it covers from 1966 thru 2021, from the man’s motorcycle accident to his triumphant return to touring in the fall of 2021. An explanation at this juncture is perhaps in order. And so…
Back in May 2021, Penguin-Random House in the UK and Little-Brown in the US published the first volume of what was supposed to be my two-volume reboot of a biography of His Bobness. A Restless, Hungry Feeling used the resources of the Bob Dylan Archive in Tulsa and the Sony Archives in New York, neither available to me at the time/s I wrote (and later revised) Behind The Shades back in 1991.
At the last minute, in November 2020, the decision was made by myself and both editors to end that first volume in July 1966, with the fabled motorcycle accident, rather than with the release of Blood On The Tracks, as was originally planned, even though the section covering 1966-74 had already been written in draft-form.
Both editors were fully aware that this would mean a very large second volume, covering some fifty-five years of Dylan’s career. Indeed, the section covering 1966 to 1974 already ran to over 90,000 words. But this was to be expected. The manuscript material in Tulsa, as those who have visited the centre may already know, is almost entirely comprised of documents from after the crash, making Volume Two, ‘the Tulsa biography’. And if it rather appealed to me; the idea of making the first volume end just as the Tulsa papers began, it also meant the reader might not be fully prepared for the tsunami of new info that would make every page of Volume Two a fresh, new perspective of the Man in Him. Caveat emptor.
Unfortunately for me, and the very future of this biography, my American editor, Phillip Marino, who had been a real cheerleader for the project, left Little-Brown shortly before that first volume appeared, at the height of Covid, when I was not in a position to find out what had happened or to meet with the publisher, a certain Bruce Nichols, to agree a way forward.
Instead, I was simply assigned two editors, one after the other – after my first substitute decided she wasn’t cut out to be an editor (I could have told her that after one Zoom conversation) and wanted to be a therapist, there being, of course, such a shortage of said folk in America. Neither she, nor her successor, Pronoy Sakar, seemed at all au fait with Dylan’s or my work.
Nonetheless, I worked on Volume Two through the pandemic and, thanks to the Dylan office and the Dylan archive, was able to complete the second volume and deliver it on time in June 2022. What I delivered I was immensely proud of, even if I have refrained from quoting Paul Rappaport, Dylan’s ex-publicist, who told me it was ‘a fuckin’ masterpiece’.
What I delivered was exactly what I said I would deliver. Before I wrote a word, I told US editor #3 it would be 300,000 words and if that was too long, to tell me now and we’d go our separate ways. I gave him an out. He insisted he wanted to see it. The book I delivered was 299,726 words. Then things went dark. After four months of silence, my New York editor informed me that they wouldn’t publish the book as it was ‘too long and delivered late’. It was delivered eight days early and 274 words shorter than I said it would be. My feelings about said editor and the publisher who presides over Little-Brown Books remain unprintable.
Thankfully, my English editor, Jorg, who had the novel credentials of being a real Bob Dylan fan and a fan of Behind The Shades, liked what he saw, and I’m glad to say that Penguin-Random House have acted with a somewhat greater degree of integrity, even when we’ve been at loggerheads, which I won’t pretend never happened.
So, I am delighted to announce that the book – called FAR AWAY FROM MYSELF (or to give it its full title: THE DOUBLE LIFE OF BOB DYLAN VOL. 2: FAR AWAY FROM MYSELF (1966-2021)) – is to be published in the UK on September 29th, 2023. It is, at least for me, the final word on the life and times of America’s most important popular artist of the 20th century. And Robert Caro can go hang! It is the size it is because it needs to be this size, and anyone who baulks at the idea of a 500,000-word bio of His Bobness, this volume ain’t for you.
And lemme say, thanks to everyone at Bodley Head, because it remains uncut. However, as it stands, there is only a UK edition. Which has apparently confused some folk on the Steve Hoffman site, who seem to think if it ain’t on Amazon.com, it isn’t available. It is not on Amazon.com because they questioned my copyright on my own work. Seriously. (FYI, in any other country, it would be ILLEGAL to copyright a book to anybody but the author, a fact that seems to have eluded the Artificial Moron Amazon use to make decisions that directly affect writers.)
I still hope to get a US publication, even if it is with a bespoke publisher. But I want to ensure that fans overseas can obtain the book NOW, and have been working with Route to ensure that an e-book edition which absolutely represents my version of the book – free, even, of the impertinent changes demanded by PRH’s so-called legal eagle – is available (and cheaper than the UK Kindle). This is now available for order from Apple Books across North America, for those who have an iTunes account or access to an Apple Mac, or from Barnes & Noble’s own e-book platform, and will be released on September 28th. It is not, and never will be, available from Amazon.com
For those oversees who wish to purchase a hard copy version of the book to read, correct and red-line, I am making signed copies available via Route who, as most of you know, published my last five books: three on Dylan, one on English folk-rock and one on English punk – all still available direct from them. It has been priced as close as possible to the price on Amazon.co.uk, and I ask you to please order it from Route, and not from Jeff Bezos.
We are making it available for £30 ($37 US to North American purchasers) plus p+p. As I am sure many of you know, the cost of posting internationally has become extortionate, but shipping will be charged at cost which currently looks like $30 US to North America and €23 to Europe. Obviously this is based on current exchange rates which can’t be guaranteed.
However, I can guarantee that all copies ordered by September 29th will be signed by me and dispatched from October 6th, i.e. the day after my Pontefract book reading at The CAT Club. I do hope many of you will take the plunge. This isn’t the time or place to belabour the decline in writers’ revenues in the years since Bezos blew up the Gutenberg galaxy, but trust me, books like this one are likely to become increasingly rare. I hope you think the end product is worth it. It’ll certainly keep you occupied for a while, as it did me. And I guarantee it’ll show you another side of Bob Dylan. Or your money back.
If you missed Volume One, we have a limited amount of signed copies of the UK hardback and paperback edition. Click here to order one of those.
North American readers can pre-order an eBook on: