And the Nobel Prize in Literature goes to …

Nobel Prize Map

First, this from My Poetic Side:

History has been made today, as Bob Dylan has become the first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is also the first American to win the award since 1993, when novelist Toni Morrison walked away with it. The permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, said that Dylan won the award because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”. It may seem like the rules have been somewhat bent for Dylan to win the award, but his lyrics are considered poems, and no one can deny that they are excellent works of literature. The award will be presented on December 10th, which is the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the prize founder. …

We recently conducted some research to determine where the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature originate. If you look at the map, you will be able to get a good understanding of the countries that have had the greatest success.

No, the rules were not “bent” to give Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature; the rules were tossed along with the basic purpose of the Nobel Prizes. Now I like Bob Dylan’s work, but c’mon, he’s a folk singer. Even an aging Carl Sandburg knew better than to accept Dylan’s claim to be a poet.

Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it

This is just the latest slam against legitimate literature. I’m still steamed over North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s careless appointment of a state employee who’d self-published two thin books of poems as the state’s Poet Laureate. After an outraged literary community gave him an earful, McCrory changed his mind by replacing his initial candidate with Shelby Stevenson, a poet deserving of the title.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Nobel Committee will do an about-face and give the Literature prize to Don DeLillo, Ron Rash, or Cormac McCarthy.

Too many forces are arrayed against the simple act of reading. Click on “Read Story” on many news sites (here, for example) and you get a blaring video that snaps your attention away from the written report.

So the Nobel Prize in Literature, once a sturdy champion of writers and their readers, has turned into yet another pusher of pop culture. Yuck.

20 thoughts on “And the Nobel Prize in Literature goes to …”

  1. Bob Dylan did Not need the Nobel Prize at all. The Sweden Academy might rather need Bob Dylan among the awarded figures. But as Leonard Cohen declared, to grant Bob Dylan the Nobel is Like giving a Medal to the Everest for Being the highest mountain (Or most popular among the highest ones)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poetry is poetry and lyrics are lyrics. Each art form has its distinctive characteristics, and there are many similarities, but they are not the same. Is whittling sculpture?


  3. Dylan is One of the most influential artist whatsoever of since the Second half of the 20th century. There are hundreds of writers inspired by Bob Dylan lyrics, lines or characters. in Spain We Have a Great writer, Rodrigo Antolin Rato, who wrote a novel About Someone who travels to the USA to visit Duluth and Hibbing in search of Dylan identity. The novel was titled “Boots Of Spanish Leather”. But there are also painters who included Bob Dylan’s characters on their paintings, or even Nobel winners who admited They Were influenced by Bob Dylan. He means much more than a Nobel Prize. He’s one of the most relevant icons of the popular culture all over the world.


  4. I think Dylan definitely did not deserve the Nobel for literature because come on, you need to at least write books for that, right? Having said that, I do think he’s an amazing song writer, he conveys so much with such sharp words, that if he decided to write a book or two, then maybe, that’s a big maybe, he could would’ve earned the Nobel. Maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like that you took a stand on this. On the broader issue of institutions bowing to populism, I wholeheartedly agree with that lament, preferring to cite the actions of the Supreme Court of the United States since year 2000. Okay, let’s not traipse that path just now.

    But saying lyrics are less literature than poetry? “Good luck with that you’re taking a stand,” to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda from Hamilton: An American Musical.

    Song lyrics can produce epic poetry; whittling does not produce epic sculpture, though your comment in that regard was amusing.


  6. I disagree, Mike. As you know, I’m from Scandinavia and I like the idea of expanding the notion of what makes up literature. Wordsmithing that makes an impact. For the better. For humanity. For thinking.
    I’m not one for sharp lines, rigid structure, hard categorizing but welcome softer edges and blurred lines between – as in this case – lyrics and poetry. As long as the literature is of quality and has an impact.


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