Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize for Literature
Posted on October 13, 2016
It is a great day for singer songwriters. The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." Dylan, 75, has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Medal of the Arts, a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, a Golden Globe and Grammy Awards. To say that Dylan's win is a shock to the literary community is a major understatement. While songwriters are celebrating his win, many critics, editors and authors are not.
Stephen Metcalf of Slate wrote an article entitled, "Bob Dylan Is a Genius of Almost Unparalleled Influence, but He Shouldn’t Have Gotten the Nobel." He argues that Dylan's work needs music to work and that poetry and prose do not need music to be transcendent.
He compares the writing of poet Richard Wilbur to a verse from the Dylan song "Up to Me" to make his point. He explains, "Language must express itself as both thought and music, because, you know, there is no music to propel it otherwise."
In an editorial in The New York Times, Anna North writes that Dylan does not deserve the prize -- not because he is not a world class songwriter and great lyricist, but because he he is not a writer. He is a musician. She says, "[b]y awarding the prize to him, the Nobel committee is choosing not to award it to a writer, and that is a disappointing choice....awarding the Nobel to a novelist or a poet is a way of affirming that fiction and poetry still matter, that they are crucial human endeavors worthy of international recognition."
Salman Rushdie, on the other hand, disagrees. He tweeted, "From Orpheus to Faiz,song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice."
Mick Jagger was certainly impressed tweeting, "Congratulations Bob for getting the Nobel prize. What an achievement! @bobdylan". No word yet from Taylor Swift.
In this video Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, was interviewed by freelance journalist Sven Hugo Persson about this year's prize and why the committee chose Bob Dylan. Ms. Danius agreed that it was a radical choice, but argues that he is a great poet. Take a look:
Update: Dylan is apparently refusing to attend the ceremony.