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Let’s Put Out the Sparks from Dylan’s Nobel Win

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Fordham University

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Let’s Put Out the Sparks from Dylan’s Nobel Win

Hey, Swedish Academy - Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

Rob Amrein

11.1.16

The Swedish Academy awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature and people got absolutely RATTLED. Why? It’s not surprising to see reporters feeding off the public’s fear for change with this being the first time a musician has won this award. Tim Stanley wrote an article entitled, “A World that Gives Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize is a world that Nominates Trump for President,” in which he accuses the Swedish Academy of pleasing the crowd in a lowbrow manner. Lowbrow? Check out your headline, guy.

Sure, it’s easy to pose a question like, “Who’s more deserving of a literary prize, Ernest Hemingway or Bob Dylan?” But, who’s to say that the accolade for producing “outstanding work in an ideal direction” needs to be a book? Although certainly a subjective category, Dylan’s Nobel was won “for having created poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” This debunks the argument that the Academy just liked his songs. Dylan’s lyrical ingenuity has been compared to that of Homer and Sappho and is seldom deemed unworthy of the Nobel by critics. It’s just that the Swedish Academy did something different that reporters smelled blood in the water. To these critics I have a number things to say but I’ll stick with: there’s a first time for everything.

If there’s any agreeable critique it’s that this Nobel came too late. In 1961, 19 year-old Robert Zimmerman bummed a one-way ride from Hibbing, Michigan to Greenwich Village and became Bob Dylan. Sometime between growling out coffee-house melodies behind an oversized guitar and etching award-winning anthems in Bleecker Street basements, his genius shone through the squalor and into the recording booth. If this Nobel Prize was awarded twenty years ago, it’s those American Dream, American soul lyrics that would be at the top of reporters’ pieces and not what some celebrity tweeted about him winning.

This is not to say that Dylan winning in 2016 comes out of the blue. In fact, in 1997 Eric Zorn predicted Bob would win and echoed the praise from profound professors like Christopher Ricks and Gordon Ball who have been sending in formal Dylan nominations to the Nobel Foundation for decades. Let the long sips from tall glasses of I-told-you-so commence, gentlemen.

Today at 75 years old, the still-writing, still-touring, dare I say “Forever Young” Dylan hasn’t said a peep about the award. I’ll admit the situation isn’t as fairytale-esque as the Nobel Prize bringing a struggling writer to the limelight but hey, Bob has done his time. Ignore the haters, Mr. Dylan; years from now your Nobel Prize page won’t carry with it reporters who are criticizing what they can’t understand.