“Semi-literate”: Bob Dylan biographers trade insults over authenticity of each other’s work

Two writers of Bob Dylan biographies have become indirectly embroiled in a row about whose storytelling is better.

Howard Sounes, who wrote the 2001 bestseller Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan, has responded to Clinton Heylin’s insults in The Double Life Of Bob Dylan Vol 1 1941-1966: A Restless, Hungry Feeling. In his introduction, Heylin calls Sounes a “professional dirtdigger” who had written a “semi-literate” book.

Sounes has reacted to Heylin’s comments, telling The Guardian that Heylin is “a clunky, self-indulgent writer” whose new Dylan biography is “incredibly boring”.


The biographer said: “It’s not really polite to tell other writers they’re bad writers, because they tend to fling it back to you. In response, I would say he’s a clunky, self-indulgent writer … His books are all very long and baggy. They’re about his interpretation of Dylan songs … and it’s incredibly boring.”

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan. CREDIT: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic.

Sounes added: “He seems to be very upset that, in 2001, I got a lot of publicity because I revealed that Dylan had a secret second marriage, to a woman called Carolyn Dennis, which made headlines all over the world and helped make the book a bestseller.”

An updated edition of Sounes’ book is being released this month by Doubleday ahead of Dylan’s 80th birthday in May. Sounes, a former news journalist for The Mirror, has written biographies on the poet Charles Bukowski as well as Paul McCartney.

Heylin’s new book, which was released earlier this month, sees him describe Sounes’ work as a “depressingly well-trundled, semi-literate stroll”.

The author declined to comment on Sounes’ reaction when requested by The Guardian.


In other news, Low have shared their take of Dylan‘s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, recorded to mark his 80th birthday next month.