Seth Rogov­oy, author of Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mys­tic, Poet, is guest-blog­ging all week for MyJew­ish­Learn­ing and the Jew­ish Book Council.

My new book, Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mys­tic, Poet (Scrib­n­er) — a crit­i­cal biog­ra­phy of the rock poet that exam­ines his life and work through a Jew­ish prism — hasn’t even been offi­cial­ly pub­lished yet (that hap­pens next Tues­day, Nov. 24), but already I’m get­ting used to hav­ing to address the ques­tion on everyone’s minds: But what about the Christ­mas album?

Last month, Bob Dylan released Christ­mas In the Heart (Colum­bia), a col­lec­tion of fif­teen pop­u­lar and obscure sea­son­al num­bers, fea­tur­ing hymns, car­ols, and nov­el­ties, includ­ing Win­ter Won­der­land,” Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy,” Sil­ver Bells,” I’ll Be Home for Christ­mas,” and The First Noel.” Like any­thing and every­thing Bob Dylan does, the effort has been exam­ined under a micro­scop­ic for clues as to what it says about Dylan’s state of mind and, not the least, for any indi­ca­tion of his ever-elu­sive reli­gious beliefs.

Down that road, my friend, lies trouble.

Try­ing to mine any bio­graph­i­cal truth about Bob Dylan from his songs or actions is a fruit­less, hope­less task. And I say this after hav­ing writ­ten a full-length book that sort of attempts to do just this. But I make clear in my book that, in spite of all my efforts to divine some sort of truth or mes­sage from Dylan’s work, ulti­mate­ly the work stands on its own, and any attempt to draw con­clu­sions about the artist him­self — a man who in word and deed has always made it clear that noth­ing is clear and that obfus­ca­tion is in itself one of his great­est tal­ents — is des­tined to fail.

This is a man, after all, whose great­est cin­e­mat­ic achieve­ment is a film called Masked and Anony­mous, in which he plays a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter named Jack Fate, an old rock star who sings songs that we know as Bob Dylan songs. And a guy whose essence was per­haps best cap­tured in a film by Todd Haynes called I’m Not There, which took its title from a Bob Dylan song that had nev­er been offi­cial­ly released (until it was includ­ed on the film sound­track album).

Are you begin­ning to see the chal­lenges one faces in try­ing to wrap one’s thoughts around one of the most enig­mat­ic artists of the last half-century?

Seth Rogov­oy is the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mys­tic, Poet, due from Scrib­n­er on Nov. 24, 2009. Please vis­it Rogovoy’s offi­cial web­site at http://​dylan​prophet​.com/.