This is so cool: Bob Dylan was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Wow.
Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota (a freezing cold, very small city on the shores of Lake Superior), and raised in the Iron Range of Minnesota. Only a year of college at the University of Minnesota before he moved to New York City. Singer-songwriter. Nobel Prize in Literature winner for 2016.
I think this is fantastic, energizing, out-of-the-box thinking by the Nobel committee, who picked the perfect recipient if they were going to pick a musician. Dylan is a genius at what he does, and he’s always forged his own path as musician and lyricist. Ironically he’s been a huge influence on other artists, but many times he’s had to drag the befuddled and protesting audience behind him.
Look up what happened when Dylan “went electric”: the “don’t change things on me” folk crowd went ballistic. Or when he made his (great) country-influenced album. The rock crowd groaned. Dylan didn’t care. He just went on making some of the greatest and most influential popular music of the 20th Century.
Now the complainers are fuddy-duddy “serious literature” snobs who somehow have missed one true thing that’s all around them. Popular music is an art form. And over the last six decades it has mattered as much to worldwide culture as traditional literature.
So, yes, I think the Dylan choice is right and deserved. But it’s also a shot across the bow and a wake-up call. Like literature itself can be.
And I bet more people will talk about the Nobel Prize for Literature today than they did in years past, when the winner was the brilliant J.M. Coetzee or the sublime Alice Munro or even the wonderful Gabriel García Márquez.
By all means go read one of those. Or your favorite Nobelist. Or your favorite non-Nobelist: I nominate the great Jorge Luis Borges. Or even a future Nobel candidate: I like Murakami.
But this is also great.