Does Bob Dylan Deserve a Nobel Prize for Literature?

The Nobel prize committee is no stranger to controversy. This year it was the literary community that they stirred up, by giving the prize for literature to folk singer Bob Dylan.

Dylan is without a doubt hugely influential in the music industry. Whether you love him or hate him, his career has spanned decades and reinvented the folk genre not once, but many times. His songs have a strong poetic feel to them.

But literature?

He’s never written a novel or book of poetry. While everyone recognizes his influence in music, many in the literary community aren’t happy to see him with a Noble prize.

What is my take on it?

Have you tried your hand at flash fiction? Flash fiction is a story in less than a thousand words. I’ve written a few and I think they are pretty good, or at least okay. But it’s hard.

That’s the point of flash. You have to condense your writing to the most sparse wording while hinting at the story. To get under a thousand words is work.

Bob Dylan did it in 130 words. I am referring to All Along the Watchtower. One hundred and thirty words that have been repeated thousands of times and lead to thousands of words trying to interpret them. I couldn’t do that. I doubt I will ever be that good.

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,

“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.

Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,

None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke,

“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.

But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view

While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,

Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.*

Or look at the opening to the song It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding:

Darkness at the break of noon

Shadows even the silver spoon

The handmade blade, the child’s balloon

Eclipses both the sun and moon

To understand you know too soon

There is no sense in trying.

The line between poetic and poetry is razor thin. Does it hold up without the music? I say, yes.

I think it should be clear that I am okay with Dylan getting a Nobel prize. But then again, I’ve been a fan since I discovered his work in college.

*Source: Lyrics Freak

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