52 Movies: Week 40 - Cries and Whispers
On the other hand...

Should Dylan Have the Nobel Prize?

For literature? Here's one of many news stories on the announcement that are out this morning.

Much as I love much of his work, I don't really think so. If there were a Nobel Prize for popular music, absolutely yes. But something called "literature" should be able to stand alone on the page, and I don't think his lyrics do. It's almost impossible to read them without hearing them in their musical setting, or at least it is for me. But if I could read his lyrics as pure text on a page I don't think they would make that much of an impression. 

But no doubt there have been less worthy recipients of the prize. 


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Hooray for Bob! It's fun to have a Nobel Prize winner who is a) American, b) I have heard of, and c) I have "read" their work.

I didn't realize it had been so long since an American had won.

Hillary Clinton may win the Nobel Peace Prize next year for keeping Donald Trump from becoming POTUS (sorry for acronym, Janet!).

That might be more justified than Obama winning it. Actually, though--this is not something I know much about, but I'm hearing a lot of leftish people say that Hillary is a big-time warmonger.

Mine was a tongue-in-cheek comment, Mac. Just to rile folks up a bit and have them remember Obama's win.

That said, I would trust her judgment on anything more than his, except maybe running a reality TV show.

You may not like her or her politics, but she's not a friggin lunatic.

Everything seems blurred these days, so it's really not surprising to me that the Nobel folks find that what Dylan's created is literature.

Just think about how libraries were once quiet places filled with nothing but books, but are now usually more like community centers, with a little bit of everything going on in them.

If poetry is "memorable words in cadence" (as another Dylan put it) then I think there's a fairly strong case to be made.

Yes, a case, but...without trying to define the word very precisely, I'm willing to grant that Dylan's work can be considered literature. That said, is it the best American has produced? I can't see it. Wendell Berry comes immediately to mind as considerably superior. And if we want to judge on poetry alone, there are probably a number of others.

I really don't mean this as disparagement of Dylan. It's basically a question of taxonomy.

I wasn't imagining him with the Noble Prize when I wrote this, but this was a poem I wrote about Dylan and his words:

Dylan the Welder

Bob Dylan is a welder
Taking words
That have been scattered
And misused
And putting them through the fires
Of humanity’s forge.

It takes a hot pen
To bind mythic thoughts to modern ways;
And a fiery riff
To weld common chords to forsaken phrases,
Fashioning a memorable song of love or theft or ruin.

It takes a spark that was lit by subterranean fires
To ignite the passions
Of a restless generation
Until they gather on the streets
Or courthouse lawns
Or the National Mall
To sing of how many roads.

It takes the fire of human consciousness
Erupting without summons or awareness
To fashion songs that can
Shake a tambourine
Survey a watchtower
Foretell a hard rain
Or catch a slow train.

It takes old embers
To join hands with
Blind Willie
Hattie Carroll
And the sad-eyed lady.

It takes new fire
To speak to the hopes of a young woman
In world that is spinning
Or the dreams of an old man
When shadows are falling.

Bob Dylan is a welder
Fashioning new gates
From worn-out words,
Burning old hopes
Onto new frames.

It takes ancient fire
To fashion timeless tales
Of joy and struggle,
And a luminous eye
To forge a song that is true.

~ Charles Kinnaird

Nice. And in case anyone is not aware of it, Dylan is an actual welder, i.e. with torch and metal. There's a picture at Charles's blog:


Wendell Berry would be suitable obscure. I had never heard of him until reading this blog. I've been in the camp of rooting for Philip Roth for many years.

Hmm, I don't think of Berry as being all that obscure. He's pretty much of an all-round player: novels, poetry, essays.

I read a long excerpt from Portnoy's Complaint in an anthology when I was in college. It left with me with an aversion to Roth and I've never read another word by him.

Now I have to run to Roth's defense! It's sort of like early Woody Allen was slapstick and juvenile, and late (or maybe mid) Woody became more thoughtful and grown up? Portnoy is very slapstick, sexual, and silly. Almost all of his other books are way less so; not that they steer completely away from sexuality, but it does become more adult.

Woody Allen is to Philip Roth, as Frank Zappa is to Kurt Vonnegut, as Tom Waits is to Charles Bukowski.

Or something like that...

I had never heard of Flannery O'Connor or Walker Percy until I had to read them at Spring Hill College. Neither is very interesting to me, but you all love them!

That's genuinely surprising. I mean not that you don't find them interesting, we all have our individual tastes, but that you had never heard of them. Especially O'Connor, who I think is regarded by critics as one of the very best short story writers.

I might like Zappa better than Vonnegut, and I'm pretty sure I like Waits better than Bukowski, based on slight acquaintance with Bukowski. So maybe I would like Allen better than Roth.

I don't really find short stories interesting is probably my issue with O'Connor. I've read both of her novels, and they were okay, but nothing too memorable except the protagonist of Wise Blood seemed "special needs".

I feel bad saying any of that. A friend of mine just finished Anna Karenina and gave me a decidedly "meh" review. I could really just read the different translations of AK over and over again and be satisfied for a long time.

I already knew that you preferred music to modern lit, Mac.

I was fortunate to be in college before Portnoy and instead was introduced to Roth by his Goodbye, Columbus book. Don't remember a lot about it, except that it was very funny, and with a comparatively buttoned-down approach to sex. Never read Portnoy, just the reviews of it, but they were enough to keep me away from the rest of his books.

When I read that Portnoy excerpt I had no objection at all to the sexual content as such. But it was just sort of...gross. Ugly.

Bob Dylan has not responded to the Nobel Committee

Maybe he has his own view

I saw that somewhere earlier and just laughed: a perfect reaction from him. Made me think of what a friend of mine said about him back ca 1970 or so, quoting one of Dylan's own songs: "He was never known to make a foolish move." Of course he later made quite a few, but still...

I wish I'd know this conversation had gotten a bit off-track. ;-)

I read Portnoy when I was about 18, and it was eye-opening in a really terrible way. I'm not sure which passage you are referring to, but there are two really gross passages that I wish that I could expunge from my mind forever. I know there were more, but I remember these two very well.

It is odd to have not heard of O'Connor because A Good Man is Hard to Find is pretty routinely in Am. Lit textbooks.


It wasn't any passage in particular in Portnoy, just the whole spirit of the thing. Seems kind of sad for an 18-year-old girl to have read it. But that was then--now stuff that crude is everywhere.

I don't remember reading any Southern Literature at all until Absalom, Absalom! in college (which is one of my favorite books). I grew up in Miami, which is below the South, and perhaps they ignore the South down there? But then went to college in Missouri (above the South) but finished my degree back in Miami which is where I read the Faulkner book.

I have occasionally enjoyed starting arguments by stating that Faulkner is overrated.

Well, he is, but that doesn't make him bad! :)

Maclin, You said, "When I read that Portnoy excerpt," so I was assuming you had only read one. ;-)

That was one of the first things that I read or looked at that I am supremely sorry to have in my head. For some reason, his stuff has been extremely hard to get rid of.


It was a long excerpt, several chapters at least. Enough to give a very good sense of the book.

By no means do I think Faulkner is bad. Just not quite the giant he's considered.

Okay I'm going to have to re-read Portnoy after all of this bitterness towards it! :) I remember laughing myself crazy; of course I was a teen-age boy when I read it for the one and only time. I will probably find it very tame compared to what is out there these days.

Dylan is like the anti-Trump. Just in personality, nothing to do with his politics which I am not even aware of and he probably hasn't shared. Part of what makes him an anti- Some people respond to everything, and others to nothing.

Dylan is nothing if not enigmatic, I guess. He's still not responded to the Nobel folks about receiving the prize -- Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door

Yeah, it's hilarious. From "Changing of the Guard, on the Street Legal album:

"Gentlemen," he said, "I don't need your organization."

As for Trump and his "responding," he seems to be unable to resist lashing out a any attack on his wealth and business skill. Very easily baited. Must be fun for the Dems/media.


Im glad he did that. A troubadour cannot have the Nobel prize for literature. it would mess with his inspiration

I just figured out that that story comes from a fake news site. I looked at the Guardian to see the story in context and it's not there. So I looked at the site itself and it's not the Guardian if you look closely. Its a fake site

Yeah I noticed that the i is actually a numeral 1, but couldn't figure out whether it was a joke site or not. Anyway I'm sorry it's not true. Assuming it really isn't.

Well, you know, ignoring it is a larger statement than rejecting it.


Maybe so.

I went back and tried to find the person Who shared the story on fb and they dont exist. Its a ghost site with a name very slightly different from a real fbf

That is a very weird site. Looks like just a junk clickbait thing but it's also a bit funny. From the About Us page:

"You are on this website because we believe you have the eyes to see the number one in our name.... By reading from this website you accept that the world was created by the U.S. President Barack Obama."

Hope it isn't doing something bad to my computer.

So do I! Im in jerusalem and all Ive got is my phone. Ive been paying bills from my phone etc

iPhone? I sorta have the impression that they're less vulnerable to that kind of thing that Androids, or Windows PCs (what I looked at that site with).

Yes its an iphone!

I dont consider Dylan unworthy to win but it seems to spoil pop music if it becomes official piublic art

I basically think it's sort of silly, although it's not the first silly Nobel (probably nothing will ever match Obama's Peace Prize in that respect). Much as I like Dylan, I think this over-praises him. It's almost kind of patronizing. I suppose the members of the Academy are baby-boomers who haven't entirely gotten over themselves (as a generation) yet.

Three out of five. And one of the others is Dylan's age.


You know, you would think if they gave you the Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing, you would try to live up to it in some way.


On the other hand, if you've already got it...

I didn't see the name of the woman who made the announcement about Dylan, Sara Danius, in that list, Mac. It seems it's the Swedish Academy that handles the Nobel Prize in Literature. Danius is the one who compared Dylan to Homer and Sappho. In any case, she was born in 1962, so a baby boomer, though close to the end of the boomer generation birth years.

Oh yeah, I see now that the page I was looking at is specific to the Peace Prize. Yep, 1962 is pretty close.

I think there's a fallacy in that Homer/Sappho comparison. I mean, if the point is that their work was sung, that's not really relevant, because it hasn't been heard that way for a couple of thousand years or more, and it's survived because it's great as written words alone. I just don't think Dylan's would, if his recordings were lost. It would be interesting to check back 200 years from now and see how he's regarded. Or if he's remembered at all. My suspicion is that most of his appeal will not greatly outlast its time. But who knows?

After Mac & Janet discussed their collective hatred of Portnoy's Complaint I decided I should re-read it. I had only read it as a teen-ager and loved it. I'm happy to report that reading it as a 50 year old is much the same experience. Sorry, I don't find any of these things icky, disgusting, overtly sexual, etc. I just find them to be part of the human experience, especially if you ever have been an adolescent male. The larger surprise is that so much of the book is not that way at all, since my memory was very much centered on the early masturbation section. Roth remains a very worthy American candidate for the Nobel prize in literature. I've been re-reading a lot of his stuff this year, and reading some of the later short novels as well. Everything by him is somewhat worthwhile, even The Breast!

The "early masturbation section" is apparently what was printed in that magazine. Just seemed kind of gross, like Ignatius in Confederacy of Dunces (a book I did think was hilarious, mostly). I remember a couple of bits that were certainly "overtly sexual" to say the least, although they didn't go into a lot of detail, so maybe that's what you mean?

I'm not sure what I mean since it really is overtly sexual ... at least that section. Perhaps I was saying that printed matter of overtly sexual material is not offensive to me; at least not within the context of what I would consider good writing. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey....not entirely sure what it is even about. But there is "erotica" and then books that have episodes which are sexually charged. What I look for in literature are representations of the human experience I can relate to. Why I have such trouble with: Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, et al

It wasn't "offensive" exactly. I mean I had no moral objection at all to it. Just ...well, like I said, kind of gross.

Either I'm remembering another book or y'all are crazy.


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