Why Bob Dylan shouldn’t have won the Nobel Prize for Literature

bob_dylan_in_november_1963First thing I want to say is I’m a big fan of Bob Dylan, have been for years, nobody enjoys a bit of Blonde and Blonde or Blood on the Tracks more than me. But I don’t believe he should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature – it’s not the right award for him.

Fans supporting his win are talking about what a wonderful poet he is and what fantastic lyrics he writes, and I couldn’t agree more. He writes and performs wonderful work.

And he has received countless relevant awards for that, endless Grammys, an Oscar, you name it, probably had to build a new wing on his mansion to keep them in. Plus he’s had his mouth stuffed with gold, and he’s been feted for all kinds of stuff he’s not much good at, he’s been lauded as an actor when he can’t act, as a painter when he can’t paint worth a damn.

Why give him this as well?

Does he really deserve it over the authors who have missed out this year and over writers who went to their graves having never won it? Because that’s who you are up against when you win something like this.

Let’s look at one or two of the authors who have died in recent years without ever winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Just Americans, who don’t tend to win this prize, it last went to the US when Toni Morrison won in 1993. So, top of my head, we’ve got Joseph Heller, Maya Angelou, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut …

So the guy who wrote Catch 22 didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize, that’s how high the bar is. But Bob Dylan does.

And what of the people who have been deprived this year? If Haruki Murakami goes out for a run in Tokyo tomorrow and gets knocked down by a bullet train he will never have won the Nobel Prize. But Bob Dylan will.

Philip Roth is 83. Philip Roth has never won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

It’s not that Dylan isn’t a good writer, it’s that there are great writers out there who are nowhere near as acknowledged as he is because their work is serious literature rather than pop culture.

Perhaps all the authors and poets who missed out on the prize this year could be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by way of compensation, because, heaven knows, they need the exposure.

And while we are at it, why not give Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Physics for plugging in his guitar on the 1965 electric tour?

There just aren’t that many big prizes for writers, especially when you start handing them to musicians.

Look, it’s not Dylan’s fault that the Nobel Academy have given him an award that others deserve and need more, after many years of comparatively badly rewarded and unacknowledged graft at the coal-face of literature. Dylan didn’t ask for this, the members of the Academy were clearly dazzled by the bright light of his fame.

So he has another gong for the overstuffed trophy cabinet and whoever would have won gets to toil away for another year in comparative obscurity. Still, as Bob says:

As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark
Easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

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10 thoughts on “Why Bob Dylan shouldn’t have won the Nobel Prize for Literature”

    1. Thanks Tracey – I’ve got nothing against Bob Dylan but it feels to me that what there is left for literature is being gradually eroded by celebrity and pop culture, this is just the latest example.

    1. I know it’s a can of worms this one – I do believe it’s possible to rate him very highly and think this is wrong. It’s not cognitive dissonance it’s knowing the difference between apples and oranges.

    1. Yes indeed. And of course – there are all kinds of glittering prizes for brilliant musicians and songwriters to win, none of which are given to novelists, poets or dramatists.

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