Friday, October 14, 2016
Rainy Day Sappho
The Nobel committee has made some interesting choices over the years, but I don't think anyone was ready for Bob Dylan. For the most part, response has been enthusiastic. Salman Rushdie and Joyce Carol Oates both offered their hearty congratulations, but other contemporary writers were not so pleased, notably Irvine Welsh, who called it a "nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostrates of senile, gibbering hippies." Ol' Irvine sure has a way with words.
The problem the Nobel committee has faced in recent years is that there aren't very many great contemporary writers to choose from, certainly few who have responded to pressing social conditions. Last year, the committee went out on a limb with Belarusian writer, Svetlana Alexievich, who is best known for collecting first-person accounts. Her books have been called "collective novels."
There were those disgruntled that Haruki Murakami didn't get the award, but Murakami often references Dylan in his novels, so he probably only serves as further proof that the Nobel committee made the right choice.
Of course, one can ask why Rushdie and Oates were passed over, as well as other worthy writers like Don De Lillo. I guess there was no consensus on any of them. It would be interesting to know how Dylan sneaked into the race, as no betting site had him in the running. It's amazing that people actually place bets on this sort of thing.
So far, Dylan has been mum on the subject. It seems to have taken him by surprise as well. One assumes he will show up for the awards ceremony in December. Maybe he will pen a new song especially for the occasion?
Contrary to Irvine's harsh assessment, you'd be pretty hard pressed to name someone who has had such a broad influence on music and literature over the past 50 years. His body of work is immense and the subject of much scrutiny in recent years. Sara Danius was effusive in her praise, specifically mentioning Blonde on Blonde, perhaps his greatest album, er collection of poetry. Dylan is first and foremost a lyricist, a Rainy Day Sappho if you will.