Essays

Bob Dylan refuses to answer Nobel Prize judges; good on ya, Bob!

suckcess

I received a lot of flak recently for a blog entry I wrote around the news Bob Dylan has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The thrust of my argument could be easily summarised by the blog’s opening sentence:

Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize for Literature says nothing about the quality of Dylan’s work and everything about the age, ethnicity and gender of the Nobel Prize for Literature judges.

I was not commenting on the quality of Dylan’s work, nor on his worth to humankind, nor on his value to millions of fans. I was pointing out the incongruity of the award, the needless reinforcement of Dylan’s status from a bunch of arbiters desperate for some popular approval, the implicit reinforcement of the hegemony of the babyboomer, the misleading reinforcement of the ‘authenticity’ of folk and/or rock (white) music in relation to its ‘inauthentic’ counterpart, pop (black) music. In other posts, I also attempted to point out that the establishment publicly avowing their fondness to Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize for Literature is like David Cameron stating The Smiths are his favourite band as I wrote in the original post – is lazy cultural shorthand, an attempt to show how hip they are, when in fact there are  millions of alternative narratives to be pursued in pop (and rock) music, if that is your desire.

Whatever. It seems that the vast majority of my detractors – mostly sent my direction from a judiciously placed link in a Guardian article – took my criticism of the hegemony of the babyboomers (as represented by the Nobel Prize arbiters) as direct criticism of darling Bob himself. I write “vast majority”. I mean “all”.

For example:

self important horse shit…you certainly do respect, value and enjoy your own opinion…I don’t

Fuck of you cunt. He was of our time, the glorious 1960’s, a brother. You are a fuckwit. Fuck off!😦

“Why not Nina Simone? Why not Beyoncé? Why not FILL IN YOUR OWN FUCKING NAME?” ~ Why not you, Dr True? We could send the Nobel Prize committee some of your writing as a nomination for next year’s prize. I wouldn’t hold your breath for a call from Sweden next year though. Despite the “theory” you might’ve read during your doctorate, it’s possible to make robust aesthetic judgments that Dylan has better literary credentials than you, or Beyonce, or FILL IN YOUR OWN FUCKING NAME, without degenerating into some relativistic soup in which everything is equally good/bad.

Yet the original post was not a criticism of Bob’s oeuvre. I have no problem with Bob Dylan’s music. Indeed, I enjoy great chunks of it. I do have a problem with awards though (wanting to know who sets themselves up as the authorities in these situations, and always questioning their credentials)…and it seems that although Bob’s fans may not understand this, Bob himself agrees with me. See the following news story, entitled Bob Dylan criticised as ‘impolite and arrogant’ by Nobel academy member.

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.

Wait a second. A panel of anonymous faceless arbiters decides to award Bob Dylan a Prize for something he never put in for the first place. How the FUCK is it “impolite and arrogant” not to respond to the panel’s telephone calls? Surely, if there is any impoliteness or arrogance present then it is on the part of the panel members, expecting – nay, demanding – that a world-famous, internationally-loved musician and poet respond to their fawning entreaties? Is not this the Nobel equivalent of U2 and Apple Music deciding that we all “deserve” a copy of the new U2 album in our iTunes folder, whether we requested it or not? And is that not the HEIGHT of arrogance (on the part of the committee member), to behave in such a fashion?

Yet, as the article explains, “the Nobel committee does not acknowledge refusals, and continues to list its winners whether or not they want the prize”. Even the bleedin’ Queen of England will have someone ask you if you want a knighthood etc before conferring the honor.

So, good on ya Bob. Showing some of the spirit and independence of action that doubtless many of your fans so loved about you in the first place. A shame so many of your fans do not cherish the same values.

Categories: Essays

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