The reason for dwelling at length on Lehrer’s consideration of Dylan is that almost everything in the chapter—from the minor details to the larger argument—is inaccurate, misleading, or simplistic. The small stuff is less important: Dylan did not go upstate immediately after his English tour—he went away with his first wife. Nor did he coin the word “juiced,” which was in wide circulation and which he was likely to have heard before. (Billie Holiday used it in her autobiography.) Dylan’s time away, moreover, lasted only several days. Lehrer’s ridiculous implication is that Dylan took no other similarly short breaks in his life, but he does not make any effort to back up his assumption.
More worryingly, Lehrer’s weightier confusions cast doubt on his glib interpretations of brain experiments.
I had this book on my want list, but I have removed it after reading this review. Mr Chotiner goes on to say, “There is little to be learned about Bob Dylan, or the creative process more generally, from Jonah Lehrer.” That was reason enough for me to put my cash to a better purpose.