How Bob Dylan copped a Nobel
Literature is supposed to be the art of the intellectual
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