Dylan Haters Rail at the Nobel Committee

Oh, my, this writer at the New York Times is unhappy.

Bob Dylan does not deserve the Nobel Prize in Literature.


But by awarding the prize to him, the Nobel committee is choosing not to award it to a writer, and that is a disappointing choice.

Because… Those aren’t words in his song lyrics? He didn’t write them? They spawned as an emergent property of the music?

As reading declines around the world, literary prizes are more important than ever. A big prize means a jump in sales and readership even for a well-known writer.

I didn’t know that the point of prizes was to increase sales for a writer, well-known or not. I thought it was to reward a writer who writes quality work.

But more than that, awarding the Nobel to a novelist or a poet is a way of affirming that fiction and poetry still matter, that they are crucial human endeavors worthy of international recognition.

Oh. Because people think that fiction and poetry don’t matter?

By the way, what about theater? Does that not matter? A number of playrights have won this prize, including Harold Pinter, Dario Fo, Eugene O’Neill, Luigi Pirandello, George Bernard Shaw, and authors who wrote theater and fiction (as well as non-fiction, for some), such as Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus.

Oh, and the 2015 winner was Svetlana Alexievich, a journalist and essayist. Did this author complain about that prize?

The committee probably did not mean to slight fiction or poetry with its choice. By honoring a musical icon, the committee members may have wanted to bring new cultural currency to the prize and make it feel relevant to a younger generation.

Or maybe recognize that song lyrics can be poetry. Ever think of that?

And theater? Because that, too, is meant to be performed, so shouldn’t that be disqualified? Or is the fact that the author of this article does not mention theater a tacit admission that she thinks it is not literature?

But there are many ways they could have accomplished this while still honoring a writer. They could have chosen a writer who has made significant innovations in the form, like…

Now this part is weird. The author lists a number of fairly young writers. The Nobel Prize is not like the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer Prize; it rewards a body of work. I think the author of this article is missing the point here, because listing “a writer who has built an audience primarily online” shows an ignorance of what the Nobel Prize is for, because such an author cannot have been writing very long. The Nobel Prize is also designed to recompense writers of global scope, not someone who just happened to be “the first Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014.”

Bob Dylan does not need a Nobel Prize in Literature, but literature needs a Nobel Prize. This year, it won’t get one.

So instead of expanding the definition of literature, which the Nobel Prize committed did, this writer suggests it should be frozen in the past. She probably wouldn’t have wanted Homer to get the prize, because his poetry was spoken.

Anyway, it’s not up to you to decide. It’s up to the Nobel Prize committee.