Friday, October 28, 2016

What about Bob?

I don't have anything against Bob Dylan, really I don't. Okay, I hate folk music, and his voice has always annoyed the crap out of me, so I have two things against him. But he's written some songs I truly admire, although none of the ones you're thinking of, and he is definitely in my top five favorite Traveling Wilburys.


He's the one on the left.
But why the Nobel Prize hander-outers opted to give him the Nobel for literature this year completely bewilders me. The fact that he hasn't accepted as I write this actually puts him up several notches in my book. Even if he does eventually cave and go get the award---hey, $880,000 is $880,000---I will be grateful for him keeping the squareheaded jerks waiting for a long time over this.

Why do I care? I shouldn't, not when the Nobel gang has had such a checkered and sometimes stupid past of picking ludicrous nonentities or worse for its various awards, such as occasionally giving the Peace prize to those with no accomplishments, those who are flat-out liars, and those who are best described as bloodthirsty killers. But this lit prize is just books, right? Poetry, man. Who cares?

I care, and here are my reasons why.

1) Musicians get enough awards
Not to mention groupies. Musicians who have managed to clear the hurdles from living-on-sofas to one-hit-wonders to rock-institutions are always handing each other trophies. Isn't that enough? No one outside publishing has heard of most writing awards. I don't care if The Iliad was supposed to be sung as a performance piece; no one admires Homer for his snappy tunes. Giving a musician a literature prize is like giving a football player the Cy Young.

2) It screws over actual writers
Those of us who moil for gold in the barren fields of literature can't help but be repulsed by the idea of a wealthy man from a totally different discipline getting the big bucket o' golden dynamite. A really sensational author who is recognized only in small-press circles---he or she should have gotten the award this year, not someone who is in the Institutionalized Revolution of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

3) Triumph of the Boomers
We tend to think of the Baby Boom as an American thing, but it went on all over the postwar world. And they're all jerks. Oh, all right, they're not all jerks, but they have had an awfully strong tendency to want to think that the world began with The Howdy Doody Show and it's a thickheaded, immature wickedness that has now been passed to their children and grandchildren in spades. Bob Dylan's a talented guy, but the recipient of the world's greatest award for writing is supposed to go to someone who can stand with the titans of the written word. You know, your Shakespeares and Miltons and Flauberts and Tolstoys and Ibsens. That crowd. But when you think the world began the year you were born, you have no perspective.

4) Triumph of the Cult of Celebrity
This is the one that offends the most, the one that shows the corruption of the Nobel institution at the highest level. Our cult of celebrity has given us (and other nations) completely unqualified political leaders who win a following because of fame. The current presidential election in the U.S. is a horrible example, featuring two candidates unworthy of the trust of any nation. But we suck up to famous people because they're famous. Now the Nobel Committee has done exactly the same thing, overlooking some poor novelist eking out an existence somewhere so that they can swoon over another celebrity. It is the most wicked and humiliating thing the Literature judges could have chosen to do, but they're only understanding that now as Dylan has given them the cold shoulder.

I keep waiting for a bucket of cold water to wake everyone up, but I suppose we've gone into a celebrity coma. I don't know what it will take to replace the silly children who run the world with sober grown-ups.

(For the record, when I talk about worthy writers who have been overlooked, I'm not clearing my throat and looking skyward innocently. I think my books are dynamite, sure, but despite that I'm not Nobel material.)
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