William Collins is set to launch its music list with a book by Harvard classics professor Richard F Thomas on why Bob Dylan matters.
The title will set out to show how Dylan’s writing “intersects” with that of some of the great classics of western literature and argue that Dylan himself “has become a classic”.
Professor Thomas was initially ridiculed by his colleagues for teaching a course on Bob Dylan alongside his traditional seminars on Homer, Vigil and Ovid, according to William Collins.
But when Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition” last October, Thomas felt vindicated.
William Collins said the book, Why Dylan Matters, is a “witty, personal distillation of Thomas’s famous course”, and “the most dazzlingly original and compelling Dylan book in decades”.
Tom Killingbeck, commissioning editor at William Collins, said: “It’s rare to find a world-class academic who can write accessibly and entertainingly for a general audience, and rarer still to find one who wants to write about popular music. Why Dylan Matters is the perfect book to launch our new music list at William Collins – Professor Thomas has written a definitive defence of Dylan in the wake of his Nobel Prize, with a wealth of original research and a treasure trove of revelations that will astound even the most devoted Dylanologist.”
Thomas said he hoped the title would show how Dylan’s art intersects with that of some of the great classics of western literature. “It’s been my great good fortune to have travelled together through life with the songs of Bob Dylan and with the ancient poets who have entered into his songbook,” he said. “It’s my hope that Why Dylan Matters will show how Dylan’s art intersects with that of some of the great classics of western literature, how Dylan himself has become a classic.”
Classicist Mary Beard has welcomed the title, saying: “At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan.”
Killingbeck acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Thomas from Jessica Sindler at Dey Street Books.