Folk singer Bob Dylan defined an era, more than just a rock star with his finger on the pulse of the times; he was the voice of a disaffected, angry generation, both a unifying figure and the originator of an anthem that would create a movement. Now, decades after his contributions to the world, Dylan is being given one of his craft’s ultimate awards. Bob Dylan is now a Nobel laureate.
This is big. Huge. Larger than you might think. When was the last time a singer-songwriter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature? Well, it’s been 115 years, so you probably won’t remember. In the remarks accompanying the award, Dylan was honored for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
It’s an especially sweet reward for Dylan who joins the ranks of cultural icons, some of whom he sang about, including TS Eliot. How influential was Dylan? When the announcement came, a tweet emanated from the White House, as President Barack Obama offered his congratulations to “one of his favorite poets.”
Typical of Dylan, he hasn’t said much, if anything, publicly about the award. He’s too busy touring to bask in even the most rarified spotlight. For him, it’s pretty much always been about the music and the message … why should that change just because he’s won the most prestigious award in the business?
Predictably, the purveyors of High Literature got their knickers well and completely in a twist. They did their best to include a slew of 50-cent words in their diatribes as if auditioning for next year’s Nobel. The Associated Press was good enough to collect some of the most affronted pearl clutchers.
Novelist Irvine Welsh fumed, “An ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies…” Ironic, coming from a guy who got famous writing Trainspotting … well, famous after the movie came out.
Author Gary Shteyngart rained snark on his Twitter account, saying, “I totally get the Nobel committee… Reading books is hard.”
Jury’s out at this moment as to whether or not the Nobel Committed tweeted back, “well, reading YOURS is…”