The latest Nobel laureate for literature is. . . songwriter Bob Dylan. What do you, my readers, think of the committee’s decision to give him the award? The principal rationale for doing so is the perception that, at his roots, Dylan is a poet, a writer of “the best words in the best order,” but on those grounds, the prize could easily have been given posthumously to Dan Fogelberg for his lifetime achievement of doing exactly the same thing. Listen to the lyrics of his albums Home Free, Netherlands and Phoenix and you’ll hear what I mean: he’s damn near a poet.
What separates a song lyric, though, from a poem is that the musical notes carry the effect of the composition as much as the words do. “Blowin’ in the Wind” would not be the song that it is without the music that accompanies it and, as much as I admire the title track to Netherlands, Fogelberg’s poetic lyric would not have the impact it does without Dominic Frontiere’s stunning orchestral arrangement in the background.
Yet, I’m open to persuasion on this issue. Does Dylan’s award cheapen the Nobel Prize for Literature in some way? Or does it justly open up presentation of the award to previously neglected genres?