Dylan: the Nobel thing do
An essay regarding Bob Dylan being recently awarded the Nobel prize in literature. And whether he really wants that.
Sir Bob has won the Nobel prize in Literature. Or has he?
Some see the appointing of Bob Dylan as the 2016 laurate of this historically prestigious, if not culturally significant award as a contrarian, almost hip move made by the committee of the Swedish Academy. To my knowledge Mr. Zimmerman so far hasn’t spoken out publicly about this decision, although a mention which was previously posted to his website has now mysteriously vanished.
(external link: “Bob Dylan removes mention of Nobel prize from website”, The Guardian)
Is he trying to beat the committee at their own game? Outsmarting them, making himself the contrary one? Bob only knows.
What is known though, is that one side, in what has now become a bit of an online debacle, is wrong.
The view of some in this supposed conflict of cultural interests is that Dylan shouldn’t even be considered given this type of appraisal. He is a songwriter, they say, it is not his field. What a silly claim. The premise is false.
Some of Dylan’s oeuvre, particularly the output of his early career, it seems to me (although I am no expert), is steeped in prosaic and at times even essayistic free-verse social realism.
Some Nobel prize-winning poets like for example Hermann Hesse have made work of a lesser form and accessibility. Perhaps that makes it ‘high art’. I don’t know.
All of that is subjective, of course (and by the way, I adore Hesse’s themes and mythical framework; to me it is the form and words that falter. But that’s another point).
What stands to reason is that lyrics (with or without musical accompaniment) are poetry is literature. Besides being logical any good encyclopedia will tell you this, and it is inarguable.
(In addition, Dylan published Tarantula, a collection of prose poetry in 1966 and Chronicles: Volume One, a memoir, in 2004.)
The real deal here, what should be the important questions are these:
whether either the Nobel prize or Dylan mean anything to anyone anymore, and what it is that makes these two colossal cultural institutions not want to play by the same rules. What does either side stand to gain?
The controversy about merits, and someone else than Bob Dylan being the best writer right now, matters more to his peers, the other prospects. It certainly seems they care more than he does.