Bob Dylan behaves immaturely about his Nobel Prize

Yes, we all know that Bob Dylan is weird and secretive, and we also know of people like Jean-Paul Sartre who declined a Nobel literature award. (One other person refused it—not a Literature prize—and several scientists were forced to refuse it by their totalitarian government. Can you name them?) We also know that Bob Dylan is laconic.

It’s okay for him to be weird, though, as his music was often superb (some, though, claim he doesn’t deserve a Nobel Prize for literature). And I remember what a jerk Dylan was, at least in his younger days; you can see that clearly in the 1967 movie Don’t Look Back.

But I hoped he’d grown up at least a little. Apparently not, though—at least according to many reports on his behavior after he nabbed the literature Nobel. He hasn’t acknowledged it, hasn’t mentioned it, and hasn’t even talked to the Swedish Academy, who had to give him the news through one of his friends.

A prominent member of the academy that awards the Nobel literature prize has described this year’s laureate, Bob Dylan, as arrogant, citing his total silence since the award was announced last week.

The US singer-songwriter has not responded to repeated phone calls from the Swedish Academy, nor reacted in any way in public to the news.

It’s impolite and arrogant,” said the academy member, Swedish writer Per Wastberg, in comments aired on SVT public television.

On the evening of 13 October, the day the literature prize winner was announced, Dylan played a concert in Las Vegas during which he made no comment at all to his fans.

He ended the concert with a version of the Frank Sinatra hit “Why Try To Change Me Now?”, taken to be a nod towards his longstanding aversion to the media.

Every 10 December Nobel prize winners are invited to Stockholm to receive their awards from King Carl XVI Gustaf and give a speech during a banquet.

The academy still does not know if Dylan plans to come.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Wastberg said.

Dylan’s behavior is reprehensible. Though it may be a form of rebellion, a denigration of awards in general, an attempt to maintain his reclusive image, or all of the above, there’s nothing admirable in it. Let him refuse the Prize if he wishes, but the least he owes the Swedish Academy is either an acknowledgment or a polite refusal.

I’m on the fence about whether Dylan deserves the award (in my view, he hasn’t written anything great since a few cuts on “Blood on the Tracks”), but anybody who thinks he’s cool for not acknowledging the prize is clueless.




  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    “Didn’t like Dylan getting Nobel but love his silence. Bob helped define rebellious 60s: a glimmer of that purity is apparently still present”

    -Ethan Iverson on Twitter

    I agree with PCC(E) about politely declining it – perhaps he’s conflicted? It’d take a very bold person to decline it… though, being named a Nobel laureate is all anybody like Sartre – or was it Camus – needs.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      … that is if Einstein declined the prize, THAT would be interesting… but he would have still been acknowledged as a winner, because they’re not going to give it to someone else instead.

  2. Luke Hatton
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Award ceremonies are always controversial. Even the good ones. Usually I am inof the opinion all of them are utter bullshit. Most of them are an exercise in idol worship and are unworthy accolades. However, I’ve always considered the Nobel prizes as noteworthy. Despite its criticism, they do value work of note and good value. Richard Feynman himself was doubtful of his nomination but even he reluctantly accepted.
    I admire Dylan for his achievements, there is no doubt there. An accomplished songwriter and a brilliant lyricist. But Bob is Bob and he won’t do what anyone expects him to do. With the prestige of the Nobel body I think he needs to at least acknowledge the nomination. Yay or nay, he needs to make a statement. Come on, Bob, this is not the time for juvenile rebellion!

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Actually, this is just about exactly what I’d have expected of him.

  3. Carl
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it is just weirdness. Maybe it’s a protest over past awards like Arafat’s and Obama’s peace prizes. Or Kissinger’s and Mother Theresa’s.

    • somer
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      They were in “peace prize” political categories. Literature isn’t infected in the same way in the Nobels, though I suppose if you see your work as political first and foremost you equate the peace price shenanigans with the literature one.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      If it’s a protest he should say so. Not much point in a protest if nobody knows what you’re protesting about (or even if you’re protesting).


      • Mdf
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

        You’re obviously not familiar with Dylan. He’s never once stated he was protesting anything, ever. He’s rarely explained anything he’s ever done.

        • rickflick
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 8:17 am | Permalink

          Well, that explains everything. 😎

  4. Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve thought long and hard about Dylan receiving the Nobel and I’ve finally decided that I don’t like it one bit. He’s a fine musician who has had an enormous impact on folk and rock music, achievements for which he has won many awards. But he has not created literature, not ever. Music is not literature, and lyric-writing is not poetry. I cannot think of a single lyricist that deserves to be called a (good) poet – no matter how much I enjoy their lyrics as a part of a musical whole. Maybe John K. Samson.

    Awarding a musician/lyricist the Nobel for literature sets up a totally false equivalency between music and literature. And it stinks a bit of pandering, a cheap way for the Nobel committee to try and make the prizes more (pop) culturally relevant.

    • Mark R.
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Good points and I wonder if Dylan is thinking the same thing. Either way, he needs to acknowledge the honor and accept it or decline.

      • jwthomas
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        And he needs to get off Jerry’s lawn too.

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      But Joni Mitchell’s lyrics are poetry…

    • Jimbo
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      I share these sentiments. Dylan did not write literature. I’d really rather the Nobel committee not descend to becoming a proxy for the Grammys. It remains one of the few awards that does a pretty good job at remaining a meritocracy though politics can creep in as when Obama won having done very little.

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Pandering, indeed.

      The Nobels are being talked about now at a level I’ve never seen before.

    • somer
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Lyric writing is a type of poetry but it is usually designed first and foremost to go to music . Dylan seems to alternate in different songs between wanting the lyrics to be like bard – poetry delivery of an effective politicized story and lyrics accompanying music – which are both completely valid. Its probably pretty unfair though to the innumerable great writers who are looked askance for this – especially as Dylan has long been a popular icon and rock god. Music and lyricists have other mechanisms of recognition

      • Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        While technically true that lyric-writing is a type of poetry, I think it can only be reasonably categorized as bad poetry. It is exceedingly rare that lyrics read as great poetry without any of their musical context. Which makes sense because lyrics are – by definition – written to accompany a piece of instrumental music. The rhythms, the rhymes, the grammar, all these are contingent on the accompanying music.

        Good poetry is not like that at all. The rhythm and/or rhyme of good poetry has to stand totally on its own. It’s the words alone that provide the beauty. The words must frame themselves.

        Poetry and lyric-writing are different art forms in my opinion. I think this is why it is incredibly difficult to set a poem to music. I’ve tried to do this myself, and it just doesn’t work. I think a good poem set to music invariably produces bad music (though there probably exist a few counterexamples), and good lyrics recited void of their musical context are bad poetry.

        • mordacious1
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

          So, Richard Cory the poem (1897) is far superior to Richard Cory the song?

        • Tim Harris
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

          I generally agree with your thoughtful comment about poetry & music. There’s a comment by the British composer Michael Tippett that might interest you: ‘The moment the composer begins to create the musical verses of his song, he destroys our appreciation of the poem as poetry, and substitutes an appreciation of his music as song… If the poem is very fine in its own right, and very well known, then we imagine sometimes that we are still appreciating the poetry when it has become a song, but I think this is illusion.’ It is illusion because: ‘The music of the song destroys the verbal music of a poem utterly.’ I think Tippett exaggerates somewhat, but not entirely. Certainly, his setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘The Windhover’ destroys the extraordinary rhythms and syntactical stops and swoops that mimic the movements of the bird, and the quiet drama of the ending. But with Dowland’s songs, or Schubert’s, Schumann’s & Wolf’s, the poems are good, but are not complex enough, in thought, syntax or rhythm, to present an insuperable obstacle to the sensitive composer. Britten set some very complex poems to music – in the set of songs for tenor & 7 obbligato instruments entitled ‘Nocturne’, he set Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43 – and brings it off, I think. There are, however, a number of Shakespeare’s sonnets that could not be set successfully.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:00 am | Permalink

            I agree. The requirements for a lyric to be sung are quite different from those for a verse to be spoken.

            Quite often (not always) the sung lyrics have to be much simpler to the point where they seem almost trivial when written down. The lines also, frequently, have to be quite short because singing tends to be much slower than spoken words.

            In fact some of the most haunting song passages just transcribe to “Ooo-wah ooo-wah” or the like and appear moronic when written down.


            • somer
              Posted October 23, 2016 at 5:41 am | Permalink

              Fair enough! I think lyrics, taken in general are a lower type of literature and blend into enhancement of music. Sometimes lyrics rise above that in the literature department. Some of Dylans stuff seems a bit vague to me – which would be less likely to be the case if it were simply narration or even straight poetry – but plainly he moves a great many people. Again – it belongs in a music award, not the novels for literature

              • somer
                Posted October 23, 2016 at 5:42 am | Permalink

                bloody autocorrect again – last phrase “not the NOBELS for literature”

            • Posted October 24, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

              Oddly, a dear friend of mine (who is a professional cellist) thought some of the poetry I wrote for her would be good as lyrics for songs. I told her that I have no musical talent and if it were such it would be coincidence.

              Maybe the Nobel Committee thought the reverse of Dylan’s stuff?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 24, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

                Hi Keith

                I didn’t say that it was impossible for a song to have good lyrics. I can think of some that do have most interesting lyrics and the lyrics contribute to the success of the song.

                But I think the criteria for judging a song are different from those for judging poetry, to the point where, in many songs, the literary merit of the lyrics is irrelevant to the overall success of the song.

                Bearing in mind of course that ‘songs’ covers a vast field.


    • Tim Harris
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      One lyricist who certainly deserves to be called an extremely fine poet is the 17th-century poet, composer and medical doctor Thomas Campion; he has one of the finest ears for language that I know. Also, Ivor Gurney, who after the First Wold War, lapsed into mental illness, was both a very fine poet and a very fine composer. And surely Cole Porter’s lyrics deserve to be appreciated – they are very witty and well made; He’s a finer song-writer than Dylan, in my view, if you take the lyrics into account.

      And some Beatles songs are not too bad in terms of their language – but too often pop lyrics seem thrown together, the only concern being getting the rhyme in the right place, and bugger the sense. I do admire Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’ – especially as sung by Sandy Denny (& not by Judy Collins), and must thank Jerry Coyne for introducing me to it.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        And Nina Simone’s performance of the song is not bad (a lovely voice) – but, as in the case of the Judy Collins performance, the accompaniment is reduced to a mere accompaniment (and sentimentalised to boot so that the song can be reduced to crooning), as it certainly was not in Sandy Denny & Airport Convention’s original – the instrumentation there is an absolutely integral art of the song (as it is in the work of two of the very greatest song-composers who ever lived: Schubert & Dowland).

        • Tim Harris
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

          Fairport Convention. Bloody Auto-correct, I suspect.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:02 am | Permalink

            And that should be ‘integral part of the song’, not ‘art of the song’.

      • veroxitatis
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 4:01 am | Permalink

        Perhaps, were he alive today, the Scottish Poet Robert Burns would be awarded a Nobel for literature. Much of his output was comprised. Not only the iconic “Auld Lang Syne”, but many tender verses such as “My love is like a red, red rose” and “Ae fond kiss”.

        • veroxitatis
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 4:03 am | Permalink

          Correction line 2 — comprised “of songs”.

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Agree on Campion. His texts for singing can be read as poetry without any allowances being made.

        Rose-cheek’d Laura, come,
        Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty’s
        Silent music, either other
        Sweetly gracing.

        Lovely forms do flow
        From concent divinely framed;
        Heav’n is music, and thy beauty’s
        Birth is heavenly.

        These dull notes we sing
        Discords need for helps to grace them;
        Only beauty purely loving
        Knows no discord,

        But still moves delight,
        Like clear springs renew’d by flowing,
        Ever perfect, ever in them-
        Selves eternal.

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted October 24, 2016 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      I disagree. Music lyrics can be literature. They are, after all, words in sentences (usually).

      Music lyrics are definitely not poetry but I don’t see how that disqualifies them from being literature. Pride and Prejudice is not poetry, but it is literature.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        “Music lyrics are definitely not poetry…”

        This doesn’t make sense to me. Why is it not poetry. Why does music being played at the time it is read/sung make it not be poetic?

        • jeremy pereira
          Posted October 24, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          What I mean is music lyrics are a different genre to poetry and judging them as poetry and then claiming that they have little literary merit is flawed.

          Sure, poems can be set to music and music lyrics can be read as poetry but it is not a given that either case produces good results.

          Ed Kroc’s post above gives a better summary than I do, but some people seem to have leapt on his “I think it can only be reasonably categorized as bad poetry” remark as meaning that the only way to characterise music lyrics is as bad poetry, not that “if you choose to characterise lyrics as poetry, then it will fall short”, which I think was his intent.

          Bad when judged as a poem is not the same as bad literature.

          • GBJames
            Posted October 24, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

            It is your statement “Music lyrics are definitely not poetry” that I’m objecting to. And we need to look no further than poems set to music, to demonstrate why it is wrong.

            • jeremy pereira
              Posted October 29, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

              Music lyrics are not poems set to music. You can set poems to music and then they become music lyrics but not necessarily good ones. You can set any form of writing to music and it becomes music lyrics, but not necessarily good ones.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 30, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

                Whether poems or lyrics are good or not is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether lyrics are poetry or not. Too many commenters here seem to think poetry must be “good” and lyrics don’t make the cut because they are usually presented musically.

                The “lyrics aren’t poetry” advocates, like yourself, need to contend with poetry being set to music. Either the poetry suddenly ceases to be poetic by the addition of music or lyrics without the associated music must be allowed the label “poetry”. There’s no other way to logically view it, IMO.

                “She comes back to tell me she’s gone
                As if I didn’t know that
                As if I didn’t know my own bed
                As if I’d never noticed
                The way she brushed her hair from her forehead
                And she said losing love
                Is like a window in your heart
                Everybody sees you’re blown apart
                Everybody sees the wind blow.”

                I don’t see how anyone can say that this isn’t poetry.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 30, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

                *some* music lyrics would be satisfactory as poetry. Like the ones GBJ just quoted. But saying ‘all’ lyrics are poetry is basically saying all collections of words are poetry, which is stretching the definition of poetry too far.

                Re ‘poems set to music’, some you can, and some you can’t. How, for example, could you set Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ to music? I suppose you might end up with an oratorio but then, you could set the phone book to music that way.

                I would argue that you often cannot judge a song by its lyrics. Good lyrics may be an attribute of some songs but they are not essential – and sometimes it’s better to listen to the music and ignore the words. (Examples: ‘I Vow to Thee my Country’ (ugh) but the music is from Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ and one of the most beautiful tunes ever written. Or the Ted Christopher / Mark Knopfler version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, with cringeworthy lyrics – just listen to Knopfler’s sublime guitar playing instead.

                I’m NOT saying lyrics can’t be poetry, I am saying that song lyrics can’t necessarily be judged by the same criteria as poetry would be. They have to satisfy different requirements.


              • GBJames
                Posted October 30, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                What’s with the “judging”? And who gets to decide when a song’s lyrics are poetry and when they aren’t?

              • Posted October 31, 2016 at 1:25 am | Permalink

                « And who gets to decide … ? »

                The Nobel Prize committee, apparently.


    • Gayle
      Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      I agree with Ed.

  5. Merilee
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink


  6. rickflick
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the inclination of the post. Dylan wrote some fine music, but he seems to be acting immaturely.

  7. Michael Herron
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Don’t think twice, it’s alright.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I agree. If he wants to refuse the award that’s his perogative, but it’s just plain ignorant to ignore the committee. And being ignorant is not an equivalent for rebellion.

  9. Gasper Sciacca
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Dylan has disappointed me before by lying in bed (the word is lie not lay) with corporate giants with loyalty to none: Apple and IBM; Chrysler and Cadillac: also with Victoria’s Secret (really). Maybe, he’s too ashamed to talk to the Swedes.

    • Carl
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure what you are getting at here. Large companies may have demerits against them, but particularly Apple and IBM should be celebrated for their overall contributions.

      I was disappointed by the lyrics on the Slow Train album, but being my first taste of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straights, I still like the album.

      • Dave
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        Who are these “corporate giants” supposed to be loyal to, and why? They’re money-making enterprises, not charities or state institutions. Apple and IBM make computers, Chrysler and Cadillac make cars, and Victoria’s Secret make ladies’ underwear. We all have freedom to buy those products or not, according to our tastes and budgets. I don’t see why Dylan’s association with any of them should be something to be embarrassed about.

  10. Gasper Sciacca
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Shakespeare never won an award.

    • Carl
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      No, the near universal recognition of being without peer across time, country, and language suffices.

  11. Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Apparently Dyln has responded. But his answer is blowing in the wind.


    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      * Dylan!

      • Merilee
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Thought you were just bein’ cool, Ant😀

    • Merilee
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Um, I think that’s Blowin’ in the Wind🐸

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Well, I think that answer just stinks. Fundamentally speaking.

  12. davidintoronto
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    But will he cash the cheque?


  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    There are lots of people who never grow up. Some of them even run for political office. But in general – the music industry is full of those with stunted growth of maturity.

  14. Susan
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    To give something with the expectation of something in return is not a gift. The Nobel committee is equally arrogant to demand he acknowledge their gift. To expect anything other than what he has always been is delusional.

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but that’s bogus. It’s simply POLITE to say either “thank you” or “I decline to accept it.” It is rude to say nothing. If you gave a friend a present and got NO reply, you’d think that uncivil.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        But they didn’t just offer Dylan a gift. Without asking, they put him at the center of a controversy about what the Literature award is for, and assumed he’d play along and validate their choice.

        Now they’re finding out how badly they blundered. Any embarrassment they feel is of their own making, in my view.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 6:31 am | Permalink

          He did validate their choice – he accepted the award. He could have remained similarly silent when they asked him if he wanted the award but he was okay with responding then.

          Personally, I like to think that he’s just appropriately embarrassed at being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and has ducked for cover as a result. It’s not edifying to watch an august institution on their knees trying to get someone who(in my opinion) really doesn’t deserve it to accept their award.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            As I understand the process, there was no point at which they asked Dylan if he wanted the award. According to Wikipedia, “The nominees are not publicly named, nor are they told that they are being considered for the prize.”

            Nor is there any point at which he can refuse it. If he accepts, that will happen at the banquet in December. If he declines to show up, he’ll still be considered the winner whether he likes it or not.

      • Craw
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        How is a friend, with whom you have implicitly agreed to relations, a good analogy to the Nobel committee?

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 6:32 am | Permalink

          Because Dylan did agree to relations with the Nobel committee, and explicitly too, by accepting the award in the first place.

          • Craw
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

            Huh? The complaint is he has said nothing. When then did he say “I accept”? And if he did accept it, where is Coyne’s point?

  15. peepuk
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    He was seen as part of the “anti-establishment” movement, so any friendliness towards establishment will be perceived as hypocrisy, at least by me.

    And he probably doesn’t need the money.

    • somer
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      rebellion for the sake of rebellion. Its a bit juvenile. If he disagrees with it he should just politely decline and let them get on with their planning for the presentation

  16. mordacious1
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
    Too noble to neglect
    Deceived me into thinking
    I had something to protect
    Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
    Ah, but I was so much older then
    I’m younger than that now.

  17. sue
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m not defending it, but Dylan’s lack of response to the Nobel isn’t surprising. What is a bit surprising is that whoever maintains his Twitter account actually posted an announcement of the prize, along with a retweet of president Obama’s congratulatory message.

    The last time I saw Dylan perform (sorry to say it was many years ago), he didn’t engage with the audience. In fact, he played a good portion of the concert facing his band–that is, with his back turned toward the audience. He is who he is: rude, shy, media averse, brilliant. And he made his views about public attention clear a long time ago in “Positively Fourth Street.”

    • mordacious1
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      “Positively 4th Street” has one of my favorite Dylan lines…

      “I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
      And just for that one moment I could be you
      Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
      You’d know what a drag it is to see you”.

      Classic snub.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      maybe he has a phobia about being in front of people.

  18. Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  19. Graham
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    In the British honours system [no, I’m not a fan] discreet enquiries are made beforehand as to whether you’d be inclined to accept an honour if offered. This is more respectful of proposed recipients who can privately make their views known so nobody ends up in this embarrassing situation.

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink


      The tapping process used by the Nobel Award Machine is self-serving and in this case, simply rude.

      That they are going on a massive Whining Tour about someone who *gasp* won’t comment about their ambush-like notification tactics is a First World Problem if there ever was one.

      Grow up Nobel/Sweden; have some humble pie will you?

      Leave the damn guy alone.


      • tomh
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Exactly right. The arrogance is all on the committee’s part.

        • Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          I agree.

          Seriously, calling Dylan ‘reprehensible’ for behaviour which, at worst, is a bit rude, is ridiculous.

          Maybe he hasn’t commented because he’s conflicted about being given an award that has been totally devalued.

          The related ‘Peace’ Prize has gone to war criminals and Mother Theresa.

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

            I agree with everyone in this comment thread.

            • Bencbt
              Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink


  20. Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Dylan writes song lyrics and sings them poorly. He can barely strum a few basic chords on the guitar or low a few squawks on the harmonica. So it is a category error to describe him as a musician. Without his attempts at musical accompaniment, his lyrics would probably be called poetry, and poetry is literature. Whether his literature is worthy of a Nobel Prize, I’ll leave that to literary experts to judge.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      True and True. However, it is not the literary world that made him the bucks. The music hall of fame is more the place for him to turn down. Everyone wanted to be like a James Dean.

      I think his fans nearly disowned him for going electric? Image is everything.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Let’s assume, pace the mounds of countervailing evidence that could be assembled, that your critique of Dylan’s musical abilities is correct. In that case, all the wonderful covers of Dylan songs — done by artists too numerous even to attempt to list here — stand as testament to what a great songwriter he is. He is, point bank, the greatest lyricist America has produced. I don’t think you’d find a one of his peers who would argue the point.

      And it’s Dylan’s lyrics, presumably, that the Nobel Committee awarded him the literature prize for. (That along with, perhaps, his book of poetry, Tarantula, and his well-written memoir, Chronicles: Volume One.)

      Dylan’s lyrics work on the page. The Nobel committee doesn’t hand out literature prizes for guitar-strummin’ and harp-blowin’.

      • Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

        Composition is a completely different animal from performance. It’s a shame both get described under the umbrella term “musician”.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        His music is often incredibly simple: very basic, traditional chords and melodies, very open to interpretation as a result. As are his lyrics, which whilst good enough that one can cherry-pick a few corkers out of there pretty regularly, are sometimes, more than sometimes, just meaningless. There are examples on this very thread that are just flat-out bollocks, and yet people will earnestly tell you what they mean, deep down, and give a different answer every time. He was a very good lyricist, but the bar for lyrics is set quite a bit lower than for literature, and as a result there’s no precondition that it has to make sense. A hefty chunk of his stuff is like po-mo philosophy – the author doesn’t know what it means and neither does the reader/listener.

        I certainly don’t think people cover, say, Visions Of Johanna because of the utterly perfunctory melody. Generally the most popular songs of his are the most musically interesting, but even they are not in the same melodic galaxy as contemporaries like Neil Young, The Beatles or The Velvets. IMO.

        Wouldn’t you concede that the number one criteria in covering a song isn’t that it’s the greatest song of all time, more that the song in question is open to interpretation? The most common covers of The Beatles’ stuff for example are songs like Hey Jude, The Long And Winding Road, All You Need Is Love, Yester-bloody-day… Maybe I’m just mental but I don’t think these are The Beatles’ best work…I don’t even think some of them are that good full stop(I forgot to put in Something which is an outlier I admit), but they are very open to interpretation, in a way that something as delicate and specific as Julia or Blue Jay Way isn’t.

        • Merilee
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 24, 2016 at 12:19 am | Permalink

            Hey, I *like* ‘Yesterday’, and it’s got a very unusual and distinctive form to it. One of Lennon & McCartney’s best, I think.

            And, ‘Something’, also.

            Both of those are way beyond the usual pop-song musical format.


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

          Oh, Dylan’s lyrics can sometimes be obscure, but obscurantism is its own recognized rhetorical device (known formally as “obscuritas” or “dissimulatio“).

          Anyway, among Dylan’s great gifts is the ability to meld the obscure with the demotic, the formal with the colloquial. That’s part of what puts him in a class with Pound and Eliot and Frost, with Ginsberg and Stevens and Robert Lowell as a poet (as the Nobel committee implicitly found in awarding him the Lit prize). Dylan’s nearest forebear in this regard was Walt Whitman.

  21. Rick Graham
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Why should he have to acknowledge them, it’s not like he entered his work into a contest. They picked him without taking the time to find out if he was even interested in the award. From what little I know about Bob Dylan he doesn’t strike me as the type that cares a lot about what committees and panels think about his music.

  22. GBJames
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    He is giving the Nobel Committee the same level of respect that he offered his audience when I attended a concert a few years ago.

  23. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Dylan has a hisory of being uncomfortable with awards. He was visibly very uncomfortable in the audience at the Kennedy Venter honors. As early as 1970 he got an honorary degree from Princeton after which he wrote a nasty song anout the experience called Day of thr Locusts. Its on his album New Morning on which all the other songs celebrate the peace and joy he has found as a married man.
    I recall his nastiness in the film Dont Look Back well. Xuring the few years that it was out of circulation you cpulf still buy a paperback of the full transcript.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      “Day of the Locusts” — Just like Bob to do it through a nod to Nathaniel West’s great novel about Depression-era Hollywood. Dylan’s always been big on intertexuality.

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    A.Solzhenitsyn was prevented from leaving the Soviet Union to go to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Lit prize in 1970.

    Dylan, who’s notoriously shy and reclusive in his personal life, could certainly be a jerk to the press, as can be seen in No Direction Home, the Martin Scorsese documentary (which included much of D.A. Pennebaker’s footage from Don’t Look Back). But (with a very few exceptions) he’s always been well-liked and well-respected by his fellow musicians and songwriters. And unlike many other musicians (some of whom I otherwise think highly of), Bob has been very open in allowing other artists to make use of and sample his music.

    I have no idea why he’s maintaining radio silence since the Nobel prize was announced. And neither, apparently, does anyone else. Maybe he’s being a total jerk. Eventually, I think he’ll have his say on it.

    Until then, I for one am willing to hold out at least the possibility that something’s happening but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

  25. Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    If Dylan isn’t on the schizoid spectrum, then I am an extrovert. 🙂

  26. Jonathan Livengood
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Would you mind explaining why you think he owes the Nobel committee a reply?

    • tomh
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      No one can, because there is no good explanation.

  27. KD33
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Interesting comments here. I can’t really judge his lyrics and the deservedness of the prize, but I like the concept that a Dylan would get it. The “bad guitarist” comments are off target in my view. He’s actually highly regarded, by guitarists, for bridging from the then-calcifying folk world to a broad interpretation of rock, and some of his arrangements are excellent.

    As for the no-comment on the prize, yep, it’s rude. I predict he’ll pop up, though, though going to Sweden seems a stretch.

    I saw him at Desert Trip week before last. His aged showed, his voice was gravelly, his band was superb, and it was still great to see him. But the rest of the bill (Stones, Who, Waters, McCartney, Young) was utterly and amazingly fantastic.

    One thing – when I read “anyone who … is clueless” will instill in me a bad reaction, and a want to show you why you’re wrong regardless of merit. A lighter touch would be great.

    • Merilee
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Lucky you re: Desert Trip!!

  28. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got to disagree with you, too, that Dylan “hasn’t written anything great since a few cuts on ‘Blood on the Tracks.’”

    Blood on the Tracks contained more than a few good songs; it’s topnotch start to finish. And a year later, Dylan released Desire, featuring the great tunes he co-wrote with Jacques Levy.

    Bob lost me for a quite a while in the 80s and 90s, especially during his religious phase. But he came back to release three great albums in a row later in his career — Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times. Those three records rival his earlier great three-album runs of Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding in the Sixties and Planet Waves, Blood on the Tracks, and Desire in the mid-Seventies — although, whereas he released the first two triads were within the space of two years each, the third took him nine.

    Time and chance happeneth to us all.

  29. Craw
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I disagree. Bartok once said prizes are for horses not artists. Dylan has put that attitude into practice.

    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      It’s easy to say things like that when you achieve artistic recognition in you own lifetime.

      • Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink



        • Craw
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Bartok died penniless and little performed.

          • Posted October 23, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            Not really. While he wasn’t wealthy, neither was he ever penniless. His musicianship was well respected in Eastern Europe. When he moved to the U.S. Shortly before dying his reputation simply hasn’t preceded him.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Especially if it’s not merely succès d’estime, but, like Dylan and Béla Bartók, includes commercial success as well.

        Makes it a lot easier to thumb one’s nose at the prize money, anyway.

        • dallos
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:07 am | Permalink

          “Although well known in America as a pianist, ethnomusicologist and teacher, he was not well known as a composer. There was little American interest in his music during his final years. He and his wife Ditta gave some concerts, although demand for them was low.”

          “Bartók’s economic difficulties during his first years in America were mitigated by publication royalties, teaching and performance tours. While his finances were always precarious, he did not live and die in poverty as was the common myth. He had enough friends and supporters to ensure that there was sufficient money and work available for him to live on. Bartók was a proud man and did not easily accept charity. Despite being short on cash at times, he often refused money that his friends offered him out of their own pockets. Although he was not a member of the ASCAP, the society paid for any medical care he needed during his last two years. Bartók reluctantly accepted this (Chalmers 1995, 196–203).”

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            I had assumed Bartók made a few financial scores along the way. I stand corrected. Thanks.

  30. Posted October 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Nothing great since BOTT?! Things Have Changed? Mississippi? High Water for Charley Patton? Not Dark Yet? Cold Irons Bound? Blind Willie McTell?!

    I respect your opinion, sir, but would encourage anyone who hasn’t heard the above to try them out (or just listen to Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft back to back).

    On the (perceived) Nobel snub, I get why people see it as rude but it shouldn’t be surprising. That’s just typical Dylan. He didn’t ask for it, and hardly responds to anything unless it has some special meaning for him – for example, he prized his Oscar because he loves movies, but has not acknowledged many offers of honorary degrees, accepting only a couple (Princeton and the University of St. Andrews). He probably can’t stand the thought of being called the “Voice of a Generation” again in front of the whole world.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Time Out Of Mind came out in 1997 and got a lot of good reviews, especially from the older members of the music press, but I well remember the UK magazine Uncut giving it Album Of The Year…the same year that OK Computer came out, the same year that Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space came out, the same year Bjork’s Homogenic, Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call, Dig Your Own Hole, etc… Pretty ridiculous in hindsight.

      The fact that this notoriously crusty old magazine placed a decent Dylan album ahead of albums as extraordinary as OK Computer and Ladies And Gentlemen said a lot about how much these older journos loved Dylan, and were rating him more highly than he probably deserved.

  31. Hempenstein
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    How can he rationalize simultaneously ducking the Nobel Committee and playing in Vegas?

    • tomh
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      He’s a performer. What does one have to do with the other?

      • Hempenstein
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Cf 15 & 24 above. Shy, reclusive $ anti-establishment don’t mesh with Vegas.

        • Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          He’s a performer: that meshes with Vegas.

          Somehow a singer songwriter is a hypocrite for singing songs he wrote?

          If he was all over the TV boasting about how he now joins the company of the ‘greatest literary figures’ in history he’d be criticised for egotism.

          Frankly the award is over-rated. Most of the greatest writers of the last century or so were ignored while it too often went to mediocre writers unknown outside Europe.

          The best that can be said of the Literary award is that it isn’t the laughing stock that the Peace Prize is. As to the award for Economics, is that field even remotely suitable for awarding? Might as well give a prize for theology.

          • Hempenstein
            Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

            Technically, the Nobel in Economics isn’t like the others, in that it wasn’t established by Alfred Nobel’s will. It was first awarded in 1969 through a grant from Sweden’s Riksbank, and is a prize in memory of Alfred Nobel.

        • tomh
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          He’s performed all over the world for 50 years. I imagine every place looks the same from the stage, and when he’s not on stage he probably never leaves the hotel room. His personal life is a separate issue.

        • Hempenstein
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

          oops, I meant reclusive & anti-establishment

  32. @eightyc
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Oh please.

    He doesn’t owe anyone anything let alone some organization who decided to give him some award.

    I’m pretty sure you’d have a different take if Templeton was the one giving him the award.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      Now that you mention it, the Nobel prizes are named for, and were funded by, the inventor of dynamite. Maybe that’s what Bob objects to.

      What if Adnan Khashoggi bestowed an unbidden award on him? Or if Dow Chemical gave him a prize named after Louis Fieser, the inventor of napalm? Would politesse similarly oblige him either to accept or to decline graciously?

      Then again, given enough time and money, it seems even whores and merchants-of-death can gain respectability.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        “the Nobel prizes are named for, and were funded by, the inventor of dynamite. Maybe that’s what Bob objects to.”

        … as we know. But if so, he would be misguided in that respect. Dynamite, as such, was intended to reduce the hazards of nitroglycerine in construction work – and did, doubtless saving thousands of lives. It isn’t much used in armaments.

        OTOH, Nobel’s ownership of Bofors is what a pacifist should be objecting to.


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

          Alfred Nobel was prompted to endow the prizes that bear his name upon reading his obituary (erroneously published after the death of his brother) dubbing him “the merchant of death” due to all the human carnage that had been wrought by his most famous invention.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:43 am | Permalink

            No, absolutely not. The ‘merchant of death’ allegation was due to his ownership of the Bofors arms company. Not dynamite.

            Dynamite was intended as a safe formulation incorporating nitroglycerine for blasting purposes – i.e. predominantly civil uses in construction and mining. It was permitted in regions where nitroglycerine had been banned e.g. California.

            From Wikipedia: ‘”Military dynamite” is a dynamite substitute, formulated without nitroglycerin. It contains 75% RDX, 15% TNT, 5% SAE 10 motor oil, and 5% cornstarch, but much safer to store and handle for long periods than Nobel’s dynamite.’
            In other words, NOT dynamite as developed by Nobel.


          • somer
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

            True but explosives are also a major benefit in construction and mining.

            Also “even whores and merchants-of-death can gain respectability.”
            many “whores”, particularly amongst poor communities or families wind up in their situation from seeking to escape physically and sexually abusive homes or marriages, or being prevented from having skills – then becoming ensnared by pimps, who often keep them on the game by feeding them drugs and maintaining a drug addition and/or violence. Another source of “whores” is human trafficking. But the women get typecast as especially bad not the pimps and the customers are not seen as supporting something that is very often part of a structure of abuse.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              I meant it merely as a figurative expression; no disrespect for actual practitioners of the oldest profession intended.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 24, 2016 at 12:24 am | Permalink

                Just as well. At least they give some value for money, unlike e.g. priests, imams, rabbis or managing directors…


            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

              The expression I had rattling around my noggin comes from John Huston’s character in Chinatown: “Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

  33. Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    It seems like people’s response to Dylan’s silence corresponds to their opinion on whether he deserves the award or not.

    Like he retrospectively has to justify the award.

    • Bencbt
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Well said.

  34. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    The Nobels are undoubtedly the most prestigious awards in the world. To those commenters who have tried to dismiss them as ‘just some committee’ – get real!

    And even if it had been, say, the Des Moines Folk Song Club** who had given their annual songwriters award to Dylan, it would still be rude of him to totally ignore it.
    (** I just made them up)

    If he has some principled reason for refusing it – that’s fine, he should say so. Even most winners of the Ig Nobel Prize have had the grace to enter into the spirit of the thing and acknowledge their ‘awards’.

    Hell, if Jerry was given the Templeton Prize, I’m certain he would at least respond.


    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Jerry has written extensively about the Templeton Award. If he was nominated he’d be expected to comment because, the occasional book aside, commenting is what he does, here or in person.

      I don’t know whether Dylan has ever commented on the Nobel award.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        He probably hasn’t ever commented on the Nobels.

        That doesn’t exempt him from the requirements of common politeness.

        Hell, he stands up in front of crowds for a living and gets paid for it. He can hardly claim Aspergers (or is it autism? Whatever). And this gig would pay him 2 million bucks.


        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

          Dylan performs his music in live venues and, with the exception for a few years after his motorcycle accident, has for longer than most people have been alive.

          He hasn’t entered his name in any award competitions or solicited any prizes.

          Therein lies the difference.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

            So what? It’s really kinda irrelevant whether he’s actually entered any competitions.

            My point is he can’t claim ‘shyness’ as an excuse. Even if he did wish to, it surely wouldn’t cost him much effort to issue a one-line statement saying ‘thanks for the honour, but I respectfully accept / decline’ or whatever?


  35. Kevin
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    If he does not want to return phone calls. I am ok with that. They gave him the award. He may or may not accept it. Maybe he is making an art out of the event. Wouldn’t that be weird if he does to Sweeden collects the awards and says not a word. Shakes the King’s or Queen’s hand and goes home. Weird, but memorable.

  36. Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Without googling, how many people can name five previous winners?

    Did Borges ever win? How about Marquez? Did Steinbeck win? Auden? How about Nabokov? Arthur Miller? Doris Lessing?

    Some of them won but I’m not telling.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      I’ll bet the ones who did win, acknowledged it. Are you trying to suggest that the Prize isn’t important enough to engage the great man’s attention?


    • Tim Harris
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Doris Lessing, Samuel Beckett, Jose Saramago, Vargas Llosa, Harold Pinter, W.B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling &, alas, Winston Churchill – there’s seven unGoogled and out of the top of my head…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        You forgot the ever memorable Pear S. Buck. Among the anglophone worthies have been Sinclair Lewis, Bertrand Russell, and Toni Morrison. Others as well, but I decline to look it up, too.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

          Oh, and Ernest Hemingway, of course. Don’t wanna disremember Papa.

      • mordacious1
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        I probably couldn’t name anyone who has won it since 2000, except this year’s winner. But the older ones like Gunter Grass, Steinbeck, Pasternak, Saramago, Saul Bellow, Heinrich Boll, Solzhenitsyn (sp?), Samuel Beckett, Camus, Churchill, Naguib Mahfouz, Brodsky, William Golding…I’ve read and am familiar with. It’s hard not to notice when you buy a book and it’s got “Winner of the Nobel Prize” plastered on the front. It’s the only reason I bought Mahfouz’s trilogy.

        I was at a party the other night and we were talking about Rachel Maddow and someone asked if anyone could name 5 other Rhode Scholars. I got 15. People were shocked that Kris Kristofferson had one. I guess I’m just into lists.

        • Carl
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:39 am | Permalink

          15 Rhodes Scholars is very impressive. It’s the incongruous ones that stick in my mind, for example, at least two southern governors. That about exhausts my list.

          • mordacious1
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

            Like Bobby Jindal…an embarrassment to Rhode Scholars everywhere.

          • Merilee
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            Not to forget William Faulkner.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:46 am | Permalink

          After his Rhodes time at Oxford, ol’ Kris served as a captain (and chopper pilot) in the Army Rangers and taught Lit at West Point.

          Another Rhodes scholar is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. He made the voyage across to Jolly Old with a certain seasick Ozark hillbilly from Hope, AR.

          Bill Bradley, too. He skipped a couple seasons in the NBA to accept his Rhodes.

          • mordacious1
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

            Kristofferson’s family wanted him to be career military and when he decided to end his military service (smart move, just prior to Vietnam), they became estranged. They never reconciled, even after he made it big in music and acting. Some people are bizarre.

            • Carl
              Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:37 am | Permalink

              And to tie it all back to the original discussion, Kristofferson also starred in a movie with a literature Nobel Laureate. Also took part in a tribute concert to this same co-star.

        • somer
          Posted October 23, 2016 at 3:06 am | Permalink

          to quote Salman Rushdie
          Gunter Grass was a pain in the Arse(Ass)
          and Heinrich Boll
          was one as Woll

          • somer
            Posted October 23, 2016 at 5:22 am | Permalink

            … well I feel that about Gunter Grass but not Heinrich Boll

    • Kevin
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      I cannot think of any, but now I will remember Dylan.

      I can name over a hundred (multiple winners/year) Physics Nobel Prize winners and describe the accomplishments associated with their award.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        You win! 🙂

  37. keith cook +/-
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    For the Concert for Bangladesh he was a no show until he showed up and Harrison was his buddy.. eh, i think.
    His opinion and value of the Nobel’s may be zero due to a conflict he perceives about them
    or maybe self doubts about his own contribution to literature, would rather be playing a gig? he does not have to prove anything to anyone? or, humble Bob thinks it should have gone to someone else….hmmm.
    Impolite yes, snubbing Sweden, an elite Nobel how dare he! he could get his friend to reply surely it can’t be hard… sorry Nobel but Bob’s busy.
    Is Bob a snob of hobnobbing, indications say he is and he may have his own good reasons, who would know?

  38. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Maybe he got the email and mistook it for Nigerian spam.

    “Dearest Mr Dylan, Sir
    It is with the utmost pleasure that we can advise you that you have been awarded the sum of two million dollars ($2,000,000.00) …”


    • Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink


      • Merilee
        Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        I got a Nigerian-spam type email the other day purportedly from Mrs. Michele Obama!

  39. Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    his voice sounds like a group of animals being tortured. What body of his work earned the prize exactly? Did he write a book?

  40. Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if this is what humility sounds like. He could be dumbfounded.

    Or could he be ‘keeping us in suspense’? 🙂

    I don’t care anyhow.

  41. Diane G.
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    The public’s demand for celebrity access approaches the obscene these days. Everyone’s waiting for Dylan to respond so they can over analyze it endlessly and badger for more and more. Dylan’s always wanted it to be about his work and not him; why go against character now?

    • Bencbt
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      As is his right. Thanks for giving him credit.

  42. Frederick Flanahbra
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Terrible all around. Nothing good since blood on the tracks is about the most cliché response about Dylan one can give right along side “my favorite album is Blonde on Blonde.”

    It disqualifies you from serious consideration when voicing your opinion on him.

    • Posted October 23, 2016 at 5:03 am | Permalink

      Taste is subjective, and yes, I’ve listened to a lot of Dylan. YOU, it seems, are the arbiter of what you must like and not like in order to have a “serious” opinion on Dylan. You, sir, are not only arrogant, but rude, and your rudeness disqualifies you from serious consideration for commenting on a website. Are all the people who don’t like Dylan at all “unqualified” to not have an opinion on him?

      Did you read the Roolz? I didn’t think so.

  43. Posted October 23, 2016 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    I think I agree with Susan. If they chose to give him an award without first asking if he was interested or would accept it then they can’t expect a response. It might be nice of him to decline it publicly but he is not under any obligation. This isn’t like getting a gift from a friend, it’s from a committee that he has no ongoing relationship with.

    It also raises the issue of who he should respond to. Is it rude if he doesn’t respond to every query from a fan? Should the Nobel Prize committee expect special treatment because they are famous and respected? Does that make them more important and deserving of politeness than anyone else? Do famous pop stars deserve special treatment because they are famous? If you don’t think so then the Nobel Prize committee is not acting any different from any man in the street complaining that he hasn’t received a personal reply from a celebrity.

    • Bencbt
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Valid points.

  44. Balderdash
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Dylan has written many, many song lyrics that stand alone, apart from the accompanying music as nobel worthy. As a cultural icon he will be recognized as one of the great artists of the 20th century in any form. The point of awards are to recognize the contribution of the recipient, not to validate the giver. If Dylan acknowledges the award or not it changes nothing about his art or its place in history.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s the way I look at it, too.

    • tomh
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Strangely, the Nobel committee seems to understand this also. Realizing what the point of the award is, the committee doesn’t accept refusals, once they decide you are the deserving winner, that’s it. So, in spite of his refusal, Sartre is still the 1964 Nobel Prize winner for literature. Just like Dylan will be for 2016, no matter what he does or doesn’t do.

  45. Mike
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Some of his Songs I like, if sung by someone else, I’d rather hear nails be drawn down a blackboard than listen to the man himself, As for his behaviour ,he’s just being an ignorant little shit.

  46. Christopher Bonds
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Jerry’s opinion has much to recommend it. Richard Feynman said more than once that he didn’t like honors and awards, had no use for them. But he went to Stockholm anyway. Bob could do that as well.

    I think the best argument in favor of his acknowledging the award is that he was presumably chosen because his work is kind of the exponent of humanity. No one lives in a vacuum, and he would be accepting the award on behalf of all the people who have influenced him, directly or indirectly. When he famously (or infamously) converted to Christianity, he wrote “You gotta serve somebody.” Well, the poet ultimately serves his fellow humans. He is their voice. For the poet to acknowledge that is true humility.

    If that’s true, then his refusal to acknowledge the prize is arrogant–if the prize is to honor contribution to society, which I think it is. What if no one ever listened to his lyrics? He may say he doesn’t care if we listen, but I don’t think he would be truthful.

    Having said that, it’s hard to argue that saying he SHOULD acknowledge the prize is defensible on purely logical grounds. I think it was David Hume who early-on pointed out that you can’t logically derive “should” from “is.”

    • Posted October 24, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Feynman agreed to accept the award because someone told him (likely rightly) that there would be *more* publicity if he refused it.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted October 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink


  47. Jonathan Dore
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    There’s been quite a lot of commentary over recent years positing that Dylan now has some form of dementia (this could well be disguised in performance, since it’s well established that music, and words set to music, seem to be able to bypass the memory recall routes used by the brain in normal speech). This may account for his lack of public response.

    • Dominic
      Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      That is interesting – & would explain much, but one might expect a friend or manager to at least acknowledge the Nobel committee. I do not think he deserves it personally – it is not a music prize & songs are a whole lot different from poetry.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        “…songs are a whole lot different from poetry.”

        People keep saying this but I don’t think it makes sense. Why is it different? Just because there is music added?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 24, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          Yes, precisely because of the music.

          And while it is possible to make a song by taking verse and ‘adding music’, many – possibly most – songs are not made that way. The lyrics and the music are evolved together, or the lyrics are on occasion fitted around the tune.

          It would be quite invidious, I think, to judge all songs by the poetic merits of their lyrics. One could argue that the lyrics have to ‘work’ with the music and what is best in the spoken word is not necessarily best when it has to conform to and enhance a tune.

          Consider for example, most Beatles songs, to which the lyrics are simplistic and would hardly pass as doggerel. ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Strawberry Fields’ for example. Or, for that matter, a Dylan song like ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. Take away the music and you have almost nothing.


          • GBJames
            Posted October 24, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

            But that is only sometimes true. Many times you can take away the music and you have poetry.

            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.

            Those are remarkable words, even without the music. Just because some lyrics are dull, I don’t see how you can claim they aren’t poetic.

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              After all, it’s not like plenty of traditional poetry isn’t dull… 😉

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

              Well, sure. *Some* lyrics can be poetic, but it’s not a requirement for a song to be great, that it have great lyrics.

              If you’re judging something as ‘poetry’ then I would think ‘dull’ was a strong condemnation of it. Admittedly you can stretch the definition of ‘poetry’ to include ‘Jingle Bells’ or the effusions of William McGonagall, but if that’s poetry then the scribblings of my 8-year-old grand-creature are art.

              ‘Adding the music’ as you put it, changes everything. There’s a continuum from simple words-set-to-music through to music where the actual words, if any, are merely coincidental. Would you judge the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the lyrics? (Whatever they may be, I don’t speak German so I don’t have a clue). If so there’s no criterion for judging the rest of the work.

              Many times you can take away the music and you have poetry, but I would submit, just as often you would not, and overwhelmingly often, it would be misleading to judge a song by the merits of its lyrics considered as poetry.


              • GBJames
                Posted October 24, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                “but it’s not a requirement for a song to be great, that it have great lyrics”

                So… it’s a requirement that poems have great words/phrases? You seem to confuse poetry with stuff you like.

                There’s plenty of poetry I don’t like. And plenty of music. And plenty of lyrics. But my not thinking that it is “great” doesn’t make it any less musical/lyrical/poetic.

                My objection is to blanket statements like “music lyrics aren’t poetry”. Bullshit. Sometimes they are. Sometimes not. Tommy James and the Shondells’ Hanky Panky comes to mind.

                Sometimes non-musical lyrics, aka “poetry”, is really dull/stupid, too.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

                “So… it’s a requirement that poems have great words/phrases? You seem to confuse poetry with stuff you like.”

                Absolutely not. But I doubt anyone would deny that some poetry is better than other, or that qualified critics are capable of judging what is good and what is crap.

                “My objection is to blanket statements like “music lyrics aren’t poetry”. Bullshit.”

                Nobody said ‘music lyrics aren’t poetry’ (except you). The statement was “…songs are a whole lot different from poetry”

                to which you said

                “People keep saying this but I don’t think it makes sense. Why is it different?”
                – which looks like a blanket statement to the contrary and if so it is, itself, bullshit.

                “Sometimes they are. Sometimes not.” Exactly.


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 25, 2016 at 3:01 am | Permalink

                Umm, I worded that a bit strongly there, and embarked on one of those ‘who-said-what-about-who’ digressions which never gets anyone anywhere, and for which I apologise.

                Some song lyrics can be regarded as poetry, some not (and some have hardly any lyrics at all). Judging song lyrics by ‘poetry’ standards isn’t always appropriate.
                That’s my position.


              • GBJames
                Posted October 25, 2016 at 7:17 am | Permalink

                I don’t disagree with your position. I only disagree with what I thought you said your position was before. 😉

              • Merilee
                Posted October 25, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

                Who’s on first? Lol

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted October 25, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

                I thought it might be something like that.

                I could say the same.



    • revelator60
      Posted October 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t heard of this dementia theory, but it’s nonsense. In the past couple of years Dylan has released two excellent albums of American songbook standards–carefully learning and playing “new” songs by other people has nothing to do with memory recall routes. Additionally, Dylan still maintains an extremely busy touring schedule and is on the road most of the year–how many dementia sufferers could handle that? Lastly, his recent long speech when accepting the Music Cares award in 2015 ( is typical Dylan and bears no hallmarks of dementia.

      As for this silly controversy–the Nobel committee has gotten in touch with Dylan’s office, so it’s received formal acknowledgement. Why is Dylan obligated to make a public comment upon receiving notification? Has he done so with his other awards? Just wait for the awards ceremony and see what happens. As Dylan once sang, “They mistake your shyness for aloofness, your silence for snobbery.”

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted October 27, 2016 at 1:06 am | Permalink

        Good points – thanks Revelator.

  48. tomh
    Posted October 24, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    If one is not interested in the Nobel Prize, I think ignoring the award is the best way to react, given the fact that a refusal is meaningless, since it is ignored by the Nobel committee. What does a refusal do? The prize is awarded to you anyway, your name is forever enshrined on the list, and the refusal means nothing. If they were to say, OK, we’ll award the prize to someone else, then it would be worthwhile to refuse. But, in their arrogance, the Nobel committee simply ignores your refusal. Dylan is taking the right path, I hope he sticks to it.

    • Posted October 25, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      I think Sartre’s point was to go on record as opposing it for some reason. The “publicity” thing mentioned above in the context of Feynman, IOW.

  49. tomh
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    An excellent piece in the New York Times on “The Meaning of Bob Dylan’s Silence,” by the poet and critic, Adam Kirsch. It ends with what I think is a good synopsis of the whole affair;

    “A small group of Swedish critics pretend to be the voice of God, and the public pretends that the Nobel winner is Literature incarnate. All this pretending is the opposite of the true spirit of literature, which lives only in personal encounters between reader and writer. Mr. Dylan may yet accept the prize, but so far, his refusal to accept the authority of the Swedish Academy has been a wonderful demonstration of what real artistic and philosophical freedom looks like.”

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted October 27, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Nice article. Thanks.

  50. Posted October 29, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Bob Dylan has spoken and will accept! I was right – he was dumbstruck and rendered speechless about the honour.

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