September 21, 2014

Bob Dylan Is Eminently Worthy Of The Nobel Prize In Literature - Updated



“DON’T criticise what you can’t understand,” sang Bob Dylan in The Times They are A-Changin’
I don’t understand how the Nobel committee awards its literature prize. (No one really does: it is one of those dark Nordic mysteries.) But I will criticise nonetheless.

The Nobel Prize in Literature should be awarded to Bob Dylan. Indeed, it should have been conferred a long time ago, for Dylan is indisputably one of the greatest lyrical poets of the age, a supreme master of language who has reinvented his art with energy and imagination for more than half a century.

The prize will be announced next month. As the Nobel committee does not produce a shortlist, it falls, as usual, to the bookmakers to identify the possible contenders: Haruki Murakami is favourite, with Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Assia Djebar in second place. Philip Roth and Milan Kundera are coming up on the rails. Dylan is in the running, as he has been for a dozen years, a rank outsider.

But as a writer and critic who prophesies with his pen, I predict this might just be the year Dylan gets the gong. Alfred Nobel left instructions that the prize should go to the person who “produced in the field of literature ... the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. On every count Dylan is a serious contender.

Dylan’s writing cannot be denied the status of literature simply because it is performed. That would remove Homer and Beowulf from the canon. Seamus Heaney (winner in 1995) was an inspired performer of his own poetry. “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second,” wrote Dylan, an assessment shared by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and former Oxford poetry professor Christopher Ricks.

Dylan is steeped in scholarly reference, lightly worn. Of his literary awakening he once said: “It seemed like I’d been pulling an empty wagon for a long time and now I was beginning to fill it up and would have to pull harder.” Into the wagon went Byron, Coleridge, Gogol, Dickens, Brecht and Woody Guthrie. His cascading imagery borrowed from everyone and everywhere, from Rimbaud to Marlon Brando to the Police Gazette.

Those who insist that words can be literature only if written for the page seem quaintly old-fashioned. At a time when traditional formal poetry is in decline, informal oral poetry is booming. This is poetry written for the ear before the eye, returning the voice to verse, and now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation. It is called rap.
That Dylan is “outstanding” seems obvious. No singer-writer has exerted more profound influence over the past half-century. At a time when every other 1960s musical celebrity is resting on their laurels or dead, Dylan remains as restless and challenging as ever. No living poet is more acutely aware of his place in literature, more assiduous in curating his work: The Complete Basement Tapes, recorded in 1967, will be released in November, with 30 unbootlegged tracks.

Is Dylan heading in the “ideal direction” for the prize-givers of Stockholm? His genius was to refuse to travel in one direction. Consistently and sometimes infuriatingly inconsistent, he has voyaged through virtually every genre — folk, blues, rock, gospel and country. He calls himself a “musical expeditionary” and keeps on pushing the poetic boat out, a mystery tramp, forever moving on.

Standing squarely (and perhaps insurmountably) between Dylan and the Nobel is his fame. The panel is instinctively wary of celebrity. Some recent recipients are literary giants but all too often the academy takes high-minded refuge in choosing obscure, Eurocentric writers of strictly regional repute. Indeed, the motto of many selections could be “like a complete unknown”: Herta Muller, JMG Le Clezio, Bjornstjerne Bjornson ... stop me when you’ve read one.

It would be quite wrong to insist that a winner have popular global appeal, but equally mistaken to allow fame to disqualify a genuine contender. Some of the greatest literary figures have known huge renown in their lifetimes. Dylan would be vulnerable to the charge of being merely a pop celebrity if he had allowed himself to be led by his fame into repetition; instead, like all great poets, he does not write to please an audience, but to please himself, following his contrary muse.

In his homeland Dylan is appreciated as both poet and pop musician. He is the only rock star in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has always sung pure poetry and the definition of what we understand as great literature is shifting to meet him. But he is 73. The Swedish Academy may not have much time left in which to hail the world’s most significant performing poet, the bard of a cultural revolution.

Being Dylan, of course, he would probably refuse to come to the award ceremony. And artistically, that might be just as well. A Nobel Prize in Literature tends to signal the end of a career. No recipient has ever written better after winning it.

Dylan will keep on writing with or without the ultimate literary accolade, a poet forever young, a moss-free rolling stone.

By Ben Macintyre

With thanks to The Australian

Bob Dylan Named MusiCares Person Of The Year

Bob Dylan has been named MusiCares Person of the Year and will be honoured at an all-star dinner with Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Tom Jones in February.

MusiCares is the branch of the recording academy that provides services for musicians who are suffering financial difficulties.

The award will be presented on Friday, February 6 during a gala that will include reception, silent auction, dinner and a tribute concert with some of the biggest names in music including Beck, the Black Keys, Crosby, Stills & Nash, John Doe, Norah Jones, Tom Jones, Los Lobos, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, Jack White and Neil Young. Don Was will be the music director.

Neil Portnow said “In celebrating the 25th anniversary of our MusiCares Person of the Year tribute, it is most fitting that we are honoring Bob Dylan, whose body of creative work has contributed to America’s culture, as well as that of the entire world, in genuinely deep and lasting ways.”

The previous honorees:
1991 – David Crosby
1992 – Bonnie Raitt
1993 – Natalie Cole
1994 – Gloria Estefan
1995 – Tony Bennett
1996 – Quincy Jones
1997 – Phil Collins
1998 – Luciano Pavarotti
1999 – Stevie Wonder
2000 – Elton John
2001 – Paul Simon
2002 – Billy Joel
2003 – Bono
2004 – Sting
2005 – Brian Wilson
2006 – James Taylor
2007 – Don Henley
2008 – Aretha Franklin
2009 – Neil Diamond
2010 – Neil Young
2011 – Barbra Streisand
2012 – Paul McCartney
2013 – Bruce Springsteen
2014 – Carole King

With thanks to Noise 11

Previous winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Looks like Bob Dylan missed out. The prize went to Patrick Modiano.

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