Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Should Bob Dylan have won the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Leye - Every other Wednesday

Image by Francisco Antunes
So, Bob Dylan won the Nobel prize for literature. Why does this please me so much? Well, for one I've got six of his records on my iTunes and at least four of his tracks consistently feature on my recently played playlist. Yeah, I like his music. But more than that, like a lot of people, I love his music because of the lyrics. Lyrics being words, I like his music because of his words.

Now, words do not exist in isolation of other words. Words make sense, find their rhyme and rhythm and reason within the context of other words. In literature, anyway. Words become sentences, sentences become prose, prose becomes literature, literature becomes...

Image by Elsa Dorfman
What is literature? I'm going to resist the urge to go seek out the dictionary definition, any dictionary, and I'm simply going to make up my own: Literature is anything in written form. Poetry, comic strips, gags, graffiti, wise observations on a toilet wall, books, Ikea instructions, the nuclear code, satire, a wine list, genre fiction, other fiction, the Bible, Star Wars screenplays, novels, plays, eulogies, music.

Image by Jean-Luc Ourlin
Will a graphic novel one day win the Nobel for literature? Why not? Should a musician have won the 2016 Novel Prize for literature? The answer, I suggest, is, why did it take this long? (For him to win it, that is. I mean, he's not the first musician to have won it after all.)


  1. I agree completely. Poets have won it, and I've never heard anyone complain that poets shouldn't win it. Certainly not all music is poetical, not all music is literature. But some is.

    I saw a post on Facebook shortly after the announcement, by an author I wasn't familiar with, who wrote (essentially) "So Bob Dylan won the Nobel for literature. Does that mean I can now win a Grammy?" I've no idea if the author was being serious or not, but I thought, "Sure, if you write a story and put it to music and the voting folks think your musical story is worthy of a Grammy."

  2. Couldn't agree more. Maybe one of these days a great mystery writer will win a Nobel or a Booker!

  3. Leye, YOU hit the nail on the head! Dylan writes poetry and sets it to music. May I add that the first poems were sung not spoke, and not even written down, but passed from one singer to another. AND even the Greek plays of antiquity were chanted no spoken in the way we are used to now. I have been a life-long Dylan fan. I say with you: why'd it take so long. Here is my favorite of his poems:

  4. I agree. Music is poetry, expressed in a form that applies other types of sound to the words. If poetry is eligible, then any lyricist should absolutely be eligible too!

  5. I was surprised at the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan, but then I thought back to his fantastic lyrics in so many songs in the 1960s, songs that were part of my teenagehood.

    I, too, like "With God on Our Side," and so many more of his songs, including "Masters of War," "The Ballad of Hattie Carroll," "Blowing in the Wind," "Talking World War Three Blues."

    I'll have to take out my cds and listen to them to be reminded of his best songs. But what a lyricist, true.

  6. Personally, I think he deserved it just for the hats...for as another literary giant put it, he be "The Cat in the Hat."