This Book Covers Everything
Studs Terkel, Sam Shepard, and Playboy, Oh My!
Cotts choices focus on were not only handled by fabulous writers most of whom were enthusiastic Dylan fans. Among the highlights are interviews conducted by Studs Terkel, Sam Shepard, and Playboy magazine.
Terkel addresses difficult topics and somewhat personal questions with Dylan, who seems more interested in helping Terkel along than he is with many of the other journalists.
Shepard's interview is written just as he would depict one of his plays. This lends to the feeling that Shepard may be putting the reader on as much as Dylan has in some of his interviews. Still, the piece retains some of the most honest dialogue possible within an awkward interview format.
There are two interviews that were originally printed in Playboy (in 1966 and 1978, respectively). The first features some of the most ornery moments, while the second, conducted several years later, approaches Dylan from the perspective of how the world itself had changed since he first appeared on the folk music scene.
In a particularly candid moment, toward the end of the book, Dylan seems to hand the torch over to the younger generation. When Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone) asks him what he thought about the events of 9/11, and the world in which we now live as a result, Dylan simply quoted a few lines of poetry by Rudyard Kipling: "We have done with Hope and Honor, we are lost to Love and Truth / We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung / and the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth / God help us, for we knew the worst too young."
The Bottom Line
The book may be a bit overwhelming for folks who are just learning about Dylan, or who may be curious about his career. However, for those already sold on Dylan's skills as a songwriter and musician, Essential Interviews offers a wealth of history on the man who helped to change folk and popular music forever.