Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bob Dylan's Nobel

I’m not usually interested in speculation--or writing about it, rather--but I feel compelled to say that the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2011 will be Bob Dylan.
Initially, my pick was based on a hunch: Why not Bob Dylan? And then, when I saw how upset it was making the fellow at The Literary Saloon, and that the odds at Ladbroke’s had jumped in Dylan’s favor, pushing him to the top, it does seem the right choice.
Bob Dylan is a quirky pick for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he’s as influential, in a culturally significant and altering way, as Mark Twain or William Wordsworth. And, he’s a poet.
He’s neither so obscure and forgotten as some past Nobel picks (Camilo Jose Cela, anyone? Or J. M. G. Le Clezio?) nor as obvious a choice as someone like Coetzee or Beckett, though he’s close when you compare him to his American counterparts.
From year to year, I sometimes scratch my head when they pick the Nobel in Literature. Often, the choice seems more puzzling as time goes on. Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as thoroughly steeped in world lit as some*, but I always check out the winners, eventually, at least in the last twenty years of Nobels.
Usually, when they select, you can see the baseline quality of the choice, in contrast and comparison to the other choices. In this way, Dylan has it hands down over any of his American rivals. Cormac McCarthy might be my next choice, but I still think Bob’s got it.
Now some have been angling for Philip Roth for years, as if he simply deserves it, but this kind of argument only goes so far. This is the Nobel, after all, and Roth feels like a long-shot. He’s probably not humble enough (and hasn’t he won enough prizes already?). His work is also distinctly self-centered and prurient enough to its own end that reinforces its exclusionary effect. All of which is to say Roth’s work precludes itself from embracing humanity in the way most Nobel winners have done.
I love Roth, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think he’s a Nobel candidate. In fact, I think Joyce Carol Oates would be a more fitting choice than Roth.
Question is, regarding Bob Dylan, are they going to use his real name?
*Though I’m not trying to be exclusionary about it, either, disregarding those that don’t pass my snob test. Can you tell me why the fellow at The Complete Review is so proud of himself when he excludes writers such as Vollmann from the review?

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