Sunday, January 8, 2017

Who Better Than Bob Dylan?

I know this isn't time critical anymore, but I've been listening to Bob Dylan's newest "old release" from the Royal Albert Hall, and regarding Bob Dylan as the recipient for the most recent Nobel Prize in Literature, I have to say that Dylan's addition to the canon of American poetry is as important and vital to world literature as that of Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, or Maya Angelou. It matters not that it was set to music. The music was as much as delivery system for his truths as a paperback book was a delivery system for Salman Rushdie. (Perhaps that's one reason each arrangement was different from live show to live show -- the music didn't matter so much, at least not as much as what he was saying.)

Dylan told folk tales as well as Mark Twain ("The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" and "As I Went Out One Morning,") and literary short stories as well as Raymond Carver ("Sweetheart Like You" and "Like a Rolling Stone"). He has and will continue to confound and divide academics with songs are varied as "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream," and "Maggie's Farm." And he captured the American cultural zeitgeist as well as Eliot's "The Wasteland" or anything by Ezra Pound with songs like "Desolation Row" and "Highway 61 Revisited."

And for those who fear that the inclusion of a minstrel among the literati means we'll soon have insipid pop stars winning Nobel Prizes for Literature, don't be ridiculous. There are fewer than a handful of true poets in the music world, and there's a world of difference between "Desolation Row" and "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time." And for those who refuse to broaden their understanding of what constitutes Literature (with a capital "L" of course, for all the high-falutin' snots like myself), Dylan himself predicted that the old definitions are supposed to be fluid and always open to redefinition when he sang, "The times, they are a-changin'."

Viva la Dylan!