Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize for Literature

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So, some people are upset about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. The thought process being he isn’t ‘literature quality.’ To this, I say rubbish. I have read a number of Nobel Prize-winning authors and I am generally unimpressed. I know that is sacrilege to many, but it’s the truth. Let’s go through a list of awardees, singling out a few I’m familiar with:

I love Rudyard Kipling and have greatly enjoyed his books. His works have been a part of my life. But, I don’t find them to be enormously better than other works of literature.

William Butler Yeats. Okay, he was better than the others of his day.

George Bernard Shaw. I have never been all that impressed with his works. They’re okay, but that’s about all I can say about them.

Sinclair Lewis probably deserves to be awarded the prize due to the influence of his writing. However, they were not great works of literature.

Eugene O’Neil did, in fact, write some great works of literature. Like Yeats, he was deserving of the praise.

Pearl S. Buck. I suppose she was a great author, but she never had much of an effect on me.

T. S. Elliott. Ehh.

William Faulkner. If you like stories about the south, he’s your guy. I don’t see him as being so much better than his peers.

Bertrand Russell. Oh, wait! Russell didn’t write literature! He wrote philosophical essays. So, in fact, there is a precedent for giving the award to someone other than literature writers.

Winston Churchill. If you want to read a history of World War II, his is the one pick. A detailed account written by someone who was in the driver’s seat. But, not great literature. Oh, wait! It wasn’t literature at all. There’s two examples of the prize going to someone who didn’t write literature.

Ernest Hemingway. Every time I have read any of his work, I end up understanding why he ate the business end of a shotgun. Extremely depressing and defeatist. I suppose there are some people who consider this great literature, but I’m not one of them.

John Steinbeck. Not as depressing as Hemingway, but still pretty bad. His Grapes of Wrath is important for documenting the lives of the average person during the Dust Bowl.

There are more examples, but I think I made my point. I view Dylan’s writing (as lyrics) to be just as good as many of the works of literature on this list. And, since the prize has become more of a political statement than a statement of literary skill and quality, Dylan falls square in the middle of awardees in recent years.  And, if you want to talk about influence, can anyone deny the influence he had on American youth, and even way beyond America? So, I find no problem at all with them giving him the Nobel Prize.

Congratulations, Bob Dylan!


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