I've been reading Christopher Ricks's book on Bob Dylan's lyrics, and I wonder how Dylan aficionados feel about it and especially about the discrepancy between style of critic and style of songwriter.
Ricks is probably the most talented practitioner of old-fashioned "close reading" that we have. His books on Milton, Keats, Eliot offer brilliant line-by-line analysis of great poems. "Dylan's Visions of Sin" shares much with his previous books: passionate advocacy of the writer, clever puns and allusions in every sentence, a controlling concept to organize and unify the book (T. S. Eliot and "prejudice," Dylan and "sin"). Thus, for example, "Positively 4th Street" becomes a condemnation of a former friend guilty of the sin of envy. It is exciting that Ricks has the same ardor for Dylan as for Eliot and Samuel Beckett.
The style of analysis and expression is so characteristic of Ricks -- logical, linear despite pirouettes, "English" -- and so seemingly antithetical to Dylan's non-analytical, non-linear, "American" manner that you can't help noting the incongruity.