A Swedish Slap in the Face & Five Literary Links

                                                           Five writers who didn’t win the Nobel for Lit.

I love Bob Dylan.

I sang “Idiot Wind” in college during my period; had “Bob Dylan revivals” in my apartment; forgot him during his Jesus freak period;  saw him in concert in early 2000s; and clapped when he won Grammys and an Oscar.

But…I have to say…and I don’t want to offend Bob or any rock stars…  isn’t it a Swedish slap in the American face to give the Nobel Prize for Literature to an American musician?

Dylan wins the Nobel.

Dylan wins the Nobel in 2916.

We have a rich, vibrant literary canon. Think Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marilynne Robinson, Ann Beattie, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Anne Tyler, Louise Erdrich, Louise Gluck, Charles Wright…and so many more.

Toni Morrison deservedly won it in 1994.  No American since.  Now Bob.

I’m flummoxed.

All right, just another bizarre Nobel decision.

And now for five Literary Links!

phone-0m7p7lxsd2w5rke1. Timothy Noah writes at Slate about “The Death of the Phone Call.”  Here’s an excerpt:

It’s a lonely business, this life without telephone calls.

I have a friend named Joe, whom I don’t see often because we live in different cities, and always have. He’s not a close friend, but I like him enormously. I used to phone Joe, or Joe would phone me, a couple of times a year. No particular reason—we’d just check up on each other, exchange a bit of gossip, talk about politics or journalism or our families. I saw Joe recently at a party, along with his second wife and their young son, and was caught up short when I realized that I had no idea what their names were. I had no idea because Joe and I had stopped phoning each other sometime around, well, 2007. When I introduced myself to Joe’s wife (her name turned out to be Dawn) I noticed that my name was no more familiar to her than hers to me.

2. Top 10 books about intelligent animals at The Guardian.

3.  Michael Dirda writes about Ursula K. Le Guin at The Washington Post: “At 86, Ursula K. Le Guin is finally getting the recognition she deserves — almost”

4. Mary Beard considers  Cicero and Clodius, among others, in “What Is a Demagogue?” at  “A Don’s Life,” at the TLS.

5. Gubbinal at Slouching towards Senescence writes about The Fall of the Magicians by Weldon Kees, a Nebraskan poet I’ve never heard of.   She says, “Kees was one of the stranger blokes of the 20th century poetry world and also among the best.”

I love Nebraska lit and can’t wait to read this!

18 thoughts on “A Swedish Slap in the Face & Five Literary Links

  1. As a huge Dylan fan I have to say I think the prize is sweet. Plus, as Shoshi’s blog just reminded me, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” from Blood on the Tracks is a work of genius! And thank you for the links – interesting stuff!

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  2. LeGuin would have been my pick. Her work is brilliant, wide-ranging, beautiful, a true contribution to the enlargement of the human spirit. Do Dylan’s lyrics really stand on their own as poetry? I don’t find them so compelling without the music. But maybe I’m being too limited in my understanding of “literature.”

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    • It does seem to be Le Guin’s year in so many ways and the Nobel for her would have been a great gesture of inclusion of genre and literary. No, I agree we’re not going to read Dylan’s lyrics, not that we don’t love them.

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  3. I’m on the fence on this one. Bob Dylan is not just a musician, he writes the songs. Maybe we can consider him a modern day poet. The idea of putting music to poetry goes way back. None of these other writers has had the impact of Bob Dylan.

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  4. Thank you for mentioning me! I thought about Bob Dylan without the music and just am not that impressed. In addition to the authors you have mentioned, I would have been very happy had the Nobel gone to American poet, Richard Wilbur, or the British authors Tony Harrison, Wendy Cope, Derek Mahon, George Szirtes or Michael Longley (I am sticking to the older writers here). Undoubtedly there are others and there are writers in other countries. I would not mind if they established a Nobel for music or one for singer/songwriters. Or one for achievement in song.

    The Nobel Academy has snubbed Tolstoy, Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, Proust, Borges, Chinua Achebe, James Joyce, and Wallace Stevens, WH Auden, Henry James, Edith Wharton. And many others.

    What are these prizes for? Excellence? Life-time achievement? Doesn’t Dylan have Grammies, Oscars? Now people are lobbying for Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and others. Excellent song writers, indeed. But do they belong in the same place as Yeats, Eliot, Faulkner, and Toni Morrison?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure these prizes are political. What are they for? Who knows? No, I can’t read Dylan’s lyrics any more than I can the Beatles. For years we’ve been waiting for an American to be recognized and I can’t help but think they did this to punish us for politics we are not responsible for. I think this is a big-money prize!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kat, I agree with you. His lyrics are wonderful, but they are song lyrics and not literature. There are so many writers who never receive the recognition they deserve,
    I can’t wait for the election to be over too!

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  6. I agree with you. But I remember that French great authors were totally forgotten and others did not the Prize. Others refused the Prize. And Dylan has been so long against Power and powers, that it would be a good idea that he refuses it!
    Otherwise, the US thought they had been passed over for too long. For policy’s sake, a Nobel Prize should be given. And now the time has come back to (Roman) decadence: “panem and circenses”; therefore a song-writer goes better than a poet or a novelist to flatter the plebs. It goes well either with the level of the political candidates (except one) and political debate in the US (and other European countries, France included).

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    • The Nobel is weird. They gave the peace prize to Obama at the BEGINNING of his first term. He is a great president, but I can only think this was an attempt to control his politics. Prizes don’t matter –except in terms of sales!

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  7. What about Thomas Pynchon??????? Just not getting this year’s award. Of course, Joseph Conrad did not win the Nobel either. Sigh; Its almost like the ones who didnt win it are the most noteworthy.

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    • Oh, Gina, there are so many greats. Yes, Pynchon! And I just read in The Guardian that Bob Dylan hasn’t responded to the Nobel people about accepting the award or going to the celebration. They’ve been trying to get in touch with him. You gotta love him.

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