Column

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Do We Really Need the Nobel Prize in Literature?

I voted for President Obama twice.   I think we are going to miss his temperment and judgement.   In 2009, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize quicker than he could find the bathrooms in the White House.   Almost as quick as many other were calling for his Impeachment.   Both strike me as utterly ridiculous.    

I think Dylan is a genius who has given me many moments of pleasure in my life.  I consider it "literature".   Maybe the people who don't like it should consider that he's written hundreds of powerful "short stories".  But I also recognize when the Nobel committee wants to get some attention.    Recognizing Phil LaMarche doesn't do that.  

It also seems like Bob isn't beyond playing the game as well.   Instead of graciously accepting it, the committee seems to have a hard time getting in touch with him.   The link above goes to an article where Ian Tyson refers to Dylan as an "A**hole Genius".   Now there is something I think we can all agree on.       

Dylan has always been enigmatic...hard telling what he actually thinks about the whole thing...I remember going to see him once and pondering how a guy who was such a great lyricist and so well known for his words never managed to say a single word to the audience the entire 2 hour plus show...not one word...no band introduction...

I think you boiled it down pretty well RudyJeep...but I can see Shawn's point below as well...either way, Henry's contention that it doesn't really matter all that much or maybe the award is, at this point, superfluous or unecessary, well taken...

I've always thought Mr. Zimmerman's most brilliant fabrication is Bob Dylan.   I can't help but think that he just sits back and laughs as we try to parse his lyrics, persona and actions.   It must be a full time job for him to be Bob Dylan.   Maybe he should win an Oscar too.      

Then again, I remember an old Doonesbury cartoon where he has Dylan, in reaction to the love he got from President Carter, saying he just wanted to make his lyrics rhyme!  

I guess Bob did acknowledge the award on his website.    He now promotes his book as “Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature”!   Bravo Terry….or Timmy….Bobby or Zimmy!       

As an English major and music lover, I questioned this one.  Maybe Dylan does too.  I tend to agree with the noveliest Cathie Pelletier, who wrote:  "I am one who feels it's not appropriate to give Bob Dylan (brilliant and wonderful as his gifts have been) the Nobel Prize. (If one is to nominate a songwriter, I might have nominated Paul Simon first, then Joni Mitchell...and others might have nominated Paul McCartney, or Leonard Cohen, who has published books of poetry.) It's all good in the end, no real harm done. No children died, no bombs fell, no towers went down. And it's all about good words. How can we fail? I love Dylan's songs, or most of them. (I did, however, read his novel TARANTULA years ago, and as I said before, it was a word salad that hurt my eyes.) So, I disagree with this decision, and what is even better is that my voice is so tiny up here in Allagash that it won't be heard at all, except by a few of you. To call Dylan "the greatest living American poet," as some have, dismisses the years of work by so many poets, Mary Oliver and Wesley McNair and Adrienne Rich, to name just three Americans. But this nomination comes entangled with Dylan's great fame. I am glad we have had such marvelous songs by so many people. Having lived in Nashville for so many years, I sing the praises of my Nashville songwriter friends all the time. I use their lyrics often when I teach creative writing, wanting students to always think outside the literary sandbox. I learned so much about the craft of writing from songwriters, and their songs (Dylan's and Simon's and Mitchell's and McDill's and so many more) have carried me through emotional ups and downs all my life. They were necessary to me during those times. And they still carry me. Each time I listen to an old song, I am back there, right in the emotion. But this is not the appropriate award to give to Bob Dylan, in my opinion. I believe that poets work on a larger and more universal canvas than songwriters do. It's just the nature of the genre itself. It's the nature of the job. How many songwriters who were writing during the same period as Gerard Manley Hopkins, or Matthew Arnold, or even William Butler Yeats are still remembered, and read or listened to? Songwriters write on the canvas of the day since that's their job. They are celebrated in their lifetimes, if they are lucky. Some poets are lucky, too, in their lifetimes. But their work will linger over time. Or it should, if they're really good."

Dylan is one of the world's greatest writers.

He deserves any award you've got to give.