13 October 2016

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature Awarded to Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
     I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents’ Chevrolet gray station wagon on our way to one of the Catskill Resorts. Or perhaps I am completely mistaken and we weren’t driving there at all but making a visit to some family members. I am somewhere in the mid-1960s with a strong sense that it wasn’t yet--or was yet barely—1965, the year that when I graduated high school. From the radio station came the voice of Bob Dylan singing (it might have been) “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Positively Fourth Street.” And from the front parental passenger seat my mother said condescendingly, “He sounds like he’s in pain,” and I responded, “He is!” I was.
     For more than fifty years Dylan’s work has spoken of and to me about the world in which I found myself, and about the world that was and was becoming myself. Wherever I found myself, whenever I found myself, Dylan had provided me the strength to accept the situation and the power of my will to engage with it and move forward from it. From Dylan I learned to know and to exercise my will.
     I have had—and still have--several master teachers: I have been fortunate. There was William Shakespeare, born before the advent of dynamite and before the availability of any prizes, except perhaps gate receipts. There was Henry David Thoreau who, too, wrote before the existence of Nobel Prizes for anything. And there was and still is Bob Dylan from whose corpus in the practice of my daily life I draw from daily.
     And for me the awarding of this incredibly prestigious international award for Literature (with the capital letter intentional) to Bob Dylan (the only name by which I care to know him) possesses great significance. First, of course, it honors the man who has produced a tremendous body of significant literary work over the past almost sixty years. The award does not give value to that work but it certainly does honor it. Second, the award acknowledges Dylan’s work in and as rock n’ roll, and thereby lends not credence but validity to the form that years ago alarmed not only the world but in 1965 upset not a small segment of Dylan’s following. And third, and not more nor less important than the previous implications, this award confirms the culture of the 1960s that Dylan in his literary work helped build, define and promote, and about which arguments, accolades, denials, defenses and critiques have been leveled from those years to this one.
     Dylan’s achievement is not mine, and I am stirred that he has earned this accolade. Dylan’s corpus has made possible whatever I have with pride and honor and conscience done in my life that derived from my having lived during these years that Dylan never ceased creating the culture that I have come to own and that has now been confirmed by the Nobel Prize committee. I feel my sense of myself and my present presence confirmed. No one can ever think of the 1960s in the same way again after the awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan. It’s alright, ma, it’s life and life only!


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