How Bob Dy­lan copped a No­bel

Lit­er­a­ture is sup­posed to be the art of the in­tel­lec­tual

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. By Ivan Eland R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. is ed­i­tor in chief of The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor. He is au­thor of “The Death of Lib­er­al­ism,” pub­lished by Thomas Nel­son Inc.

WBhen I heard that Bob Dy­lan had re­ceived the No­bel Prize for lit­er­a­ture, I was mildly sur­prised. He writes mu­sic, pop­u­lar mu­sic. As did Ge­orge Gersh­win and Irv­ing Ber­lin, both of whom al­most cer­tainly wrote bet­ter mu­sic. I have noth­ing against Mr. Dy­lan’s mu­sic, ex­cept that it was writ­ten by a scruffy young man who has re­mained a scruffy young man all his life. At least, that is an achieve­ment. As the years ac­cu­mu­late around him, Mr. Dy­lan has re­mained a scruffy young man, right down to his re­cent achieve­ment, be­wil­der­ing the No­bel Com­mit­tee, whose mem­bers still do not know what Mr. Dy­lan is go­ing to do about their award to him. Is he yuck­ing it up with his pals while the prize com­mit­tee awaits his de­ci­sion?

He is not known for his sense of fun or, for that mat­ter, for hav­ing many pals.

I think the No­bel Com­mit­tee might have done bet­ter had they given him the No­bel Prize for mu­sic, though they do not rec­og­nize mu­sic. Is it be­cause they agree with Jac­ques Barzun, one of the great thinkers of the last cen­tury who lived on into the 21 cen­tury (he died at 104)?

Barzun wrote that of all the arts, lit­er­a­ture was the great­est, for it ap­pealed only to one’s in­tel­lect. It could not ap­peal to one’s au­ral sense or vis­ual sense or even to one’s sense of touch. Beethoven and Mozart and Bach could ar­guably through their work com­mand the at­ten­tion of a chim­panzee for at least a lit­tle while. Think of one of Beethoven’s for­tis­si­mos. Surely a chim­panzee would take note of it. And Michelan­gelo or Rodin might snag the chimp’s at­ten­tion with one of their huge sculp­tures. Even a paint­ing might at­tract the tran­sient no­tice of an an­thro­poid. But not even a book of poetry by Shake­speare or a novel by Dos­toyevsky could fetch the in­ter­est the most in­tel­li­gent an­thro­poid for a mo­ment un­less the crea­ture was hun­gry or needed a pro­jec­tile to heave. efore Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has fully fleshed out his pol­icy agenda, House Repub­li­cans are al­ready plan­ning to slam through Con­gress their own pro­gram of re­peal­ing Oba­macare, re­peal­ing reg­u­la­tions Barack Obama is­sued in the last 60 leg­isla­tive days of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, and en­act­ing sub­stan­tial tax cuts.

This agenda has some par­al­lel with the pres­i­den­t­elect’s stated agenda dur­ing his cam­paign. But Mr. Trump spent more time on the trail to the White House ad­vo­cat­ing the trash­ing of what he called bad trade deals, build­ing a bor­der wall and de­port­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants, and ques­tion­ing ex­ces­sive U.S. mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion­ism over­seas and out­dated al­liances in which the United States pro­tects wealthy al­lies. Mr. Trump has al­ready qual­i­fied his re­peal of Oba­macare, say­ing he will re­quire in­sur­ance for peo­ple with pre­ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions and al­low par­ents to keep their chil­dren on their in­sur­ance poli­cies up to the age of 26. Also, he has soft­ened his stance on with­draw­ing from U.S. al­liances.

Re­peal­ing Oba­macare (of­fi­cially the Af­ford­able Care Act) will be more dif­fi­cult than Repub­li­cans imag­ine, be­cause it is po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult to take away govern­ment pro­grams from con­stituency groups that al­ready re­ceive them. Thus, it is bet­ter to not give them out in the first place, es­pe­cially with what for­mer Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Bud­get Com­mit­tee staffer Mike Lof­gren, in his book “The Deep State: The Fall of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Rise of a Shadow Govern­ment,” cor­rectly called “a costly and con­vo­luted way to in­sure more peo­ple.” There is al­ready talk of what to put re­place Oba­macare with to en­sure that the 20 mil­lion peo­ple who got new cov­er­age un­der the law would be able to re­tain it.

Re­peal­ing Mr. Obama’s most re­cent reg­u­la­tions is also a good idea. For ex­am­ple, one of them re­quires com­pa­nies to pro­vide time-and-a-half pay for over­time work to work­ers who make $47,000 or less an­nu­ally. Al­though this might seem like a just re­ward, whether the fed­eral govern­ment should be con­duct­ing in­ef­fi­cient med­dling in la­bor mar­kets is re­ally the is­sue.

Cer­tainly, Mr. Trump and the House Repub­li­cans can agree on sig­nif­i­cant tax cuts. Tax cuts are won­der­ful, but the na­tion still has a mas­sive bud­get deficit. Al­though Mr. Obama has sub­stan­tially re­duced the deficit by al­most two-thirds from al­most $1.5 tril­lion in fis­cal year 2009 to about $500 bil­lion in the cur­rent fis­cal year of 2017, it is still

The lit­er­ary mind has only its imag­i­na­tion to work with, and the read­ing mind has only its imag­i­na­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate the lit­er­ary mind’s out­put. This I be­lieve ex­plains why so many dull minds have turned to tele­vi­sion.

There you will find the clang and bang pre­sented to the TV au­di­ence by cam­eras and mi­cro­phones, and some emo­tional tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity. If you look long enough you will find Mr. Dy­lan, not read­ing from any of his in­fan­tile writ­ings but strum­ming his gui­tar and oc­ca­sion­ally blow­ing on his har­mon­ica. In his nasal twang he is singing: “The an­swer ma fren is blowin’ in the win’, the an­swer is blowin’ in the … etc.” What is the an­swer? For that mat­ter, what was the ques­tion?

His mu­sic is OK. He has been called a trou­ba­dour and that is OK, too, but it is not great art and, for that mat­ter, when the com­mit­tee mem­bers gave their peace prize to Barack Obama, they did not give it to a great states­man or even a states­man. They gave it to a fix­ture of pop­u­lar cul­ture: Mr. Obama, the first black man to be elected pres­i­dent, though he is only half-black. His mother was white. Pop­u­lar cul­ture is not very ex­act­ing. Per­haps some­day the peo­ple of Nor­way will be as tol­er­ant as the peo­ple of Amer­ica or even more tol­er­ant. They might elect a full-blooded black as their leader.

For years now, the No­bel Com­mit­tee has seen its stan­dards im­pinged upon by pop­u­lar cul­ture. Thus, a pop singer wins an award for lit­er­a­ture. If jug­gling were pop­u­lar in so­ci­ety, a jug­gler might have won the award. As I say, I have noth­ing against Bob Dy­lan. In fact, I even ad­mire the fact that a scruffy 75-year-old man can keep the No­bel Com­mit­tee guess­ing: Will he ac­knowl­edge the award or will he not? He ac­knowl­edged the award even­tu­ally. Now will he show up to ac­cept the award? Who knows?

Given the fact that the No­bel Com­mit­tee has acted as ir­re­spon­si­bly as it has, I am glad Bob Dy­lan is putting them on, though I fear he will make an­other of his cos­mic state­ments about it. Will he find it blown in the wind? sig­nif­i­cant and it is pro­jected to go up in the fu­ture even with­out a large Repub­li­can tax cut.

In the past — for ex­am­ple, dur­ing the Ronald Rea­gan and Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions — Repub­li­cans won votes in elec­tions by propos­ing huge tax cuts in the name of “small govern­ment,” but then failed to reduce govern­ment pro­grams, be­cause no one ever wins votes by tak­ing candy away from key con­stituency groups. As a cover for this ir­re­spon­si­ble elec­tion­eer­ing, past “sup­ply side” rhetoric has claimed that tax cuts will spur eco­nomic growth, thereby bring­ing in more rev­enue and (in the ex­treme ver­sion, which Rea­gan him­self pro­pounded) thus “pay­ing for them­selves.” How­ever, as Mr. Lof­gren notes, “De­spite thirty years of em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence that tax cuts nei­ther pay for them­selves nor have any mea­sur­able ef­fect

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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