This morning, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan, who’d been rumored as a potential winner for years. The committee noted he was honored “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” a fancy way of saying that “Like a Rolling Stone” is both poetically deep and musically kick ass. Sara Danius, permanent secretary at the Swedish Academy (the organizing body that decides the award), noted, “He can be read and should be read, and is a great poet in the English tradition.” So, it doesn’t matter that he’s a songwriter, not a conventional man of letters, though it should be noted that Chronicles Vol. 1 is a great read.
Dylan getting the award is both a watershed moment for your dad’s record collection, and a mild troll by the Swedes. Ahead of the award, it was hinted that this might finally be the year that patron saint for horny, morally conflicted Jews Philip Roth or patron saint for horny, existentially conflicted Anglo-Saxons Don DeLillo might be handed the Nobel, on account of their probably being the greatest living American authors. Before Dylan, an American hadn’t won the Nobel since Toni Morrison in 1993, and recent comments from the Swedish Academy indicated they just didn’t think the Americans were all that central to literature. Roth and Delillo are getting up there in years, and the Nobel would’ve been a great validation.
Ergo, while Dylan’s importance to pop culture and a literary tradition in songwriting is without question, it’s an indiscreet snub. “You might have written Underworld or Portnoy’s Complaint,” one imagines a Swede saying, “but it isn’t shit compared to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man.'” May the hegemony of boomer rock never be disrupted.
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 13, 2016