If Bob Dylan in America was a painting and not a 400-page book, it might resemble the cover of Sgt. Pepper with Bob at center surrounded by JFK, commie hunter Joe McCarthy, poet Allen Ginsberg, bluesman Blind Willie McTell, and hundreds more whose lives directly or circuitously intersected with Dylan's. Sean Wilentz is an eminent American historian with firm grasps of music and literature and this masterful opus traces the relationship twixt The Bard from Minnesota and his nation's history. The author may be a professor at Princeton but he's never pedantic or square, revealing his roots as a Greenwich Village teenager who first saw Dylan perform in 1964. He's also clever enough to see relationships that would occur to few others, the parallels between Zimmy and classical composer Aaron Copland being a notable and fascinating one. Having read virtually every major book about Dylan ever published, I can honestly say that Bob Dylan in America is one of the best. This late afternoon read 'n' rap should be mandatory for all serious students of Bobology. It'll be fun too.

Sun., Oct. 10, 5 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly