On Bob Dylan Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature

(Boy, I’m gonna get in so much trouble for this…)

bob-dylan

I wasn’t going to do a piece on this, but a couple of days ago I read a post on here that kind of pissed me off… so I felt like I had to. Now, I’m not linking to the post or author because I am about to be super critical and I don’t want to be discourteous or call anyone out. (Please let me know if you think I should have done this differently or if you are the author of said post and would like to be included)

[Edit: the post has been deleted now anyway – which I sincerely hope was not because I disagreed in a comment- my intention was only ever to start a discussion]

Okay- after that pretty long preamble I will state for the record that while I do love Bob Dylan, I disagreed with the decision to give him a Nobel Prize for Literature for two main reasons:

  1. It was a gimmicky move designed to make headlines for the awards and not for the sake of literature. I’ve seen this kind of thing happen in the Art world before and it is often just for attention
  2. While I agree that Dylan and other songwriters write poetry, there are already awards for music

Now there are plenty of other reasons people have given both for and against. But the article on here that I read did not address any of these. Instead it attacked Dylan for being a “white male”- and I really objected to this on two grounds:

  1. That’s racist and sexist. Claiming someone doesn’t deserve something because of who they are is prejudiced and discriminatory- I don’t care who the victim is.
  2. It’s not even accurate. Dylan is of Jewish descent and therefore belongs to an ethnic minority. (I am going to add pre-emptively that it is actually a very anti-Semitic trope to say he has “privilege” as a Jew)

Just to be clear, I’m happy for awards in any industry to be inclusive. I personally love reading books by all different authors regardless of race, religion or ethnicity! But to suggest someone should *not have* received an award because of what you see when you look at them, flies in the face of any liberal way of thinking. If you want to promote books you love, do it in a positive way and not by detracting from the success of others. I would like to assume that most people reading this are only hoping for a freer and more equal world- let’s not undermine that by this kind of behaviour.

Now- I’m fairly aware that this will displease plenty of readers- but don’t be shy- if you disagree or have any thoughts I’d like to hear about it! Fire away in the comments!

And if you would like to respond in a piece of your own you are very welcome!

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39 thoughts on “On Bob Dylan Winning the Nobel Prize for Literature

  1. paintdigi says:

    I agree with you 100%.
    * Bob is a great musician, but he is not the best writer.
    * Bob is a man, amiable and respectful, away from all kinds of racism.
    I have already given my opinion clearly in:
    paintdigi.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/nobel-prize-for-bob-dylan-why-am-i-surprised-off-side-30/

    Liked by 3 people

  2. daleydowning says:

    I totally agree with all of this, too. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Dylan’s music – but it is for personal musical taste *only*. I completely understand, and respect, that to many, he is a great musician and songwriter and cultural figure.

    All that aside, I agree that the Nobel Prize was not a necessary award for him to receive. A Grammy? Yeah, of course. Awards for contribution to American music? Sure. Recognition of the impact he’s had on other songwriters/singers? Totally. But the Nobel Prize is supposed to be of a different caliber than these titles, and that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing, either.

    And I think, in true terms of promoting a culture that’s more inclusive, some of us should be allowed to disagree with this decision by whichever committee – and not have hellfire rain down on us from those who happen to disagree with our opinion. After all, we’re letting them have theirs. Now they need to do the same for us – unless they’re ready to admit how narrow-minded they truly are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John W. Leys says:

    You make a valid point, this could be seen as a publicity stunt by the Nobel committee. Personally, I’m happy for him. Awards don’t effect my appreciation of his work, but I imagine it’s nice to be recognized in such a way. Artistic awards are always somewhat subjective anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Martin says:

    I think you make your point well, but I respectfully disagree.

    Yes there are awards for music, but they don’t recognise the literary aspects of a musicians work. The fact that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize recognises his contribution to literature, the fact that a lot of his literature is set to music should not be a barrier. I also think it helps break down the snobbery that surrounds poetry which can only be a good thing.

    As for saying someone shouldn’t receive an award because they are a white male, well that’s a racist and sexist comment.

    Liked by 4 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha that’s no problem- I’m perfectly open to debate.
      Truth is, I was on the fence about that one- because I do recognise that lyrics can be poetic- and truthfully I think there could be more recognition for people who write lyrics or songs. But I do have reservations, in that by making this about music, we might start overlooking more traditional poets and writers (it’s not like the music industry is starved of attention- but often writers just get a lot less attention). I think that it’s good to break down snobbery for sure- but my instinct is that this is more for pretentious reasons. As I mentioned in the piece, I have seen this done in the art world- for instance the “sound sculpture” move a few years ago- by expanding the definition of art (with a small a, not a large one) traditional forms of art start to be overlooked and undervalued. It implied that a painting on its own is not enough to make someone feel something. It’s all very well breaking down boundaries- but constantly deconstructing things is not always the most constructive way of looking at things. I’m just very wary of these kind of statements in the Art world in general, because soon shocking people and making headlines becomes all that it is about.
      That’s not to say I’m knocking lyrics in general or that I have a view of Art having to be on a ridiculous pedestal- which is what these awards too often seem to be about (personally I’d prefer it if so-called genre fiction started being put forward for awards) but I do have my doubts about this move.
      Sorry for my rambly reply- and thank you so much for your respectful comment- I very much enjoyed reading it 🙂 And I’m also very pleased about that comment you added at the end- cos while I am willing to be flexible on my views about what art is, my views on that are pretty firm

      Liked by 1 person

      • Martin says:

        I think this discussion just gets more interesting. You’ve made some excellent points about art and gimmicks m especially your point about painting which of course I have to agree with!

        I think my position would be as follows:
        Bob Dylan’s work is worthy of a Nobel Prize, especially given his influence and longevity.
        If that is why it was awarded then it was right that he got it.
        If, however, the award was a gimmick, or a publicity stunt or some misguided attempt to make some sort of point about art, then he shouldn’t have got it.

        Thanks again for such an engaging post.
        M

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Donna says:

    Well, I’d love to add to the discussion but I agree with everything you said. I was gobsmacked when I heard he had received the Nobel price. Does that mean our favorite authors can win music awards if they include lyrics into their stories? But the “white male” issue has nothing to do with it. It’s a terrible argument, which is silly because there is already a lot of material to work on the subject without bringing racial issues in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha that is exactly my issue! Can we start calling our favourite books music and then insist they win grammys? I mean, why don’t we give J K Rowling an Oscar while we’re at it- I mean she’s certainly awesome enough for one 😉 Yeah- I really thought so- I really don’t like when people do that. It didn’t have to be about that and that’s fundamentally what prompted me to write that.

      Like

  6. Zezee says:

    Soo… I’m curious to know the blog where the post appeared, but that’s cause I’m nosy. I think you did the right thing there not including the post but placing a note to explain and let the person know you don’t mind including a link to their post.
    I’ve seen/read many reactions to Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize and it seems that everyone thinks he doesn’t deserve it and that it was done to get attention. I have no opinions on it.
    I do, however, get annoyed when people are quick to say that the only reason why someone was awarded a prize is because the person is White and is a dude. I didn’t read the post that you’re responding to so I don’t know what facts that person presented to support such a claim, but from what you’ve said above, it seems that it was an assumption quickly made with not much proof(?). I do believe that sometimes minorities are overlooked and those who are awarded receive the prestigious prize because of their gender and color of their skin. Yea, sometimes such claims are made because those who say them are being racist and/or sexist, but sometimes (a lot of times, unfortunately) it’s true. I prefer when people provide facts and some data to back up their claims that gender and race was a major factor in someone receiving a particular prize.

    Liked by 3 people

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        Fair enough- personally I cannot speak for the people that gave the award and I don’t know their motivations. I would argue in this case it seems to have had very little to do with race and everything to do with him being a musician- but as I said, I’m not a mind reader

        Liked by 2 people

      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        And just to clarify as well, it’s fair enough to criticise the people who give the awards or saying perhaps someone else could have been nominated- eg with the oscars last year- but I have a problem if, say, people attack dicaprio for receiving the award and suggesting he didn’t deserve it because he’s white.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zezee says:

          Lol. I was just responding to say something along those lines. I’ll just type it here:
          Yea, it seems these days that whenever someone White receives an award, someone will grumble and say it’s because of the awardee’s skin color, though that might not be the case. It is annoying (even more so for the awardee in some cases, I’m sure) because it might seem that the awardee doesn’t deserve the prize.

          Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ahh yeah, I would’ve done that- but they made their blog private so unfortunately I can’t contact them. And as I said I didn’t want to call them out.
      Well deserve isn’t the word I’d use- cos there’s no doubt he’s a great artist- I just question the decision. But that’s totally fair to not have an opinion- I respect that.
      Well they didn’t say that they were given it because they were a white male, but that they should not have got it because they were a white male- which is not cool in my opinion. I agree that not enough minorities get recognition- but I don’t think attacking the decision on the grounds that someone is white and a male is cool in any way. And when it comes to what you said I feel the exact same way- I’d like some actual data regarding this. In response to me the person did say that women and minorities find it harder to get published- I asked if she could send me some data to back that up, for example number of submissions to rejections- just to see if any correlation could be found. Unfortunately she didn’t reply, which is a shame. I certainly think there are problems with these kinds of issues in this world, but I do need evidence to back up claims of discrimination and I am wary of just firing accusations at people (publishers/people that give awards) randomly- it kind of negates the evidence of actual discrimination. Personally, I think it is more productive when people show there is a demand for diverse literature by buying it and promoting it- but I have no time for people negating the work of people if they are not considered to fit into the category of diverse. Sorry for the rambly reply- it’s something I’m pretty passionate about!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Emily | RoseRead says:

    What a great post – and a great comments section! It’s interesting to read people’s opinions because I feel very ambivalent about the whole thing. I was puzzled when I heard the announcement, and then kindof shrugged it off because I know how important and excellent his work is. But I’m still not sure the Nobel Prize for Literature is the right award; like, was there really no worthy author this year or something? (Seriously doubt that). I never thought about award committees awarding someone as a publicity show before you brought it up. I can see how this might be the case, and it breaks my heart a bit to think that these major accolades might be concocted for media attention – but definitely not out of the realm of possibility.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Kristina Steiner says:

    An award, or anything really, should not be given to someone just because of their race, sex, age etc. but simply based on their work. Now, Bob Dylan is great and that could never be taken away from him, but he is a musician. I’m sure there is a writer deserving of this award.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anne says:

    I didn’t even hear this news yet while I was busy with all kinds of domestic stuff :’) How sad is that?! But I agree with you monkey, unless he has written something truly exceptional, I think he should probably get his awards from the music industry, not the literary one. Especially when it comes to a Nobel prize, I mean, that’s something BIG innit? Accusing him of receiving the prize because of the reasons mentioned up here…I don’t even know what to say about that apart from “Bitch please”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      haha don’t worru! haha thank you!! I think it’s a shame just for the sake of all the writers out there that could’ve won it- especially given how big the music industry is in comparison :/ hahaha thank you so much- that sums it up nicely!!!

      Like

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