Writer tries to stand inside Dylan’s shoes

"Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan’s Minnesota"

Toby Thompson

University of Minnesota Press

Paperback, 215 pages, $15.95

Thompson was one of the first — he would likely say THE first, since he seems to have a knack for self-promotion, among other talents — rock music writers to track down Dylan’s Minnesota haunts and friends, and connect the dots to his music. A writer for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone in the late ’60s, he knows Dylan’s ouevre backwards and forwards, and in the course of his wanderings through the Iron Range, Duluth and Dinkytown, he discovers influences, angles, angels and positive connections in the Minnesota environment that others have missed.


The author, who now teaches nonfiction writing at Penn State, gets a little too close to one source in particular — one of Dylan’s old girlfriends, the apparent model for "Girl from the North Country." But Thompson’s out-there voice and quirky kinkiness is part of the charm of this relic of rock history, first published in 1971.

Hats off to the University of Minnesota Press for reissuing it, with updated material, described as a "bonus track." Seems like Thompson could have added more on Dylan since ’71, where people have gone and what’s become of the places that influenced him.

That’s a book for another writer, maybe — a youngster who’s new to the music and has "some lessons to learn," as Dylan said of Thompson in 1969, when he was annoyed that the young writer was digging around in his past.

Thompson learned those lessons well and with "Positively Main Street" added vivid details to the record.

— Jay Furst, managing editor

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