Some­thing is hap­pen­ing: Bob Dy­lan wins No­bel in lit­er­a­ture

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - Karl Rit­ter re­ported from Stock­holm. As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Hil­lel Italie and Keith Moore in Stock­holm also con­trib­uted to this re­port.

NEW YORK ( AP) — Bob Dy­lan, No­bel lau­re­ate. In the book world's equiv­a­lent of a Supreme Court rul­ing, the No­bel judges de­clared Thurs­day, Oct. 13 that Dy­lan is not just a rock star but a poet of the very high­est or­der.

Dy­lan, 75, be­comes the first mu­si­cian in the 115year his­tory of the No­bel to win the prize in lit­er­a­ture. He was hon­ored for "hav­ing cre­ated new po­etic ex­pres­sions within the great Amer­i­can song tra­di­tion."

It is the ul­ti­mate as­cen­sion for the man who set off a last­ing de­bate over whether lyrics, es­pe­cially rock lyrics, can be re­garded as art. Dy­lan, who gave the world "Like a Rolling Stone," ''Blowin' in the Wind" and dozens of other stan­dards, now finds him­self on a list that in­cludes Sa­muel Beck­ett, Toni Mor­ri­son and T.S. Eliot, whom Dy­lan re­ferred to in his epic song "Des­o­la­tion Row."

"Con­grat­u­la­tions to one of my fa­vorite po­ets, Bob Dy­lan, on a well-de­served No­bel," tweeted Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who in 2012 pre­sented the singer-song­writer with a Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom.

Dy­lan rarely gives in­ter­views, and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the star had no im­me­di­ate com­ment. He per­formed a 90-minute con­cert in Las Ve­gas Thurs­day night but did not men­tion the No­bel honor.

The star­tling an­nounce­ment out of Stock­holm was met with both eu­pho­ria and dis­may.

Many fans al­ready quote Dy­lan as if he were Shake­speare, there are en­tire col­lege cour­ses and schol­arly vol­umes de­voted to his songs, and judges work Dy­lan quo­ta­tions into their le­gal opin­ions all the time, such as "The times they are a-chang­ing" and "You don't need a weath­er­man to know which way the wind blows."

With this year's No­bel an­nounce­ment, many peo­ple, es­pe­cially Amer­i­cans, weren't scratch­ing their heads and ask­ing "Who?!" the way they did after hear­ing the names of such winners as Pa­trick Mo­di­ano and J.M.G. Le Clézio.

Oth­ers, though, lamented a lost mo­ment for books.

"An ill-con­ceived nos­tal­gia award wrenched from the ran­cid prostates of se­nile, gib­ber­ing hip­pies," wrote "Trainspot­ting" nov­el­ist Irvine Welsh. "I to­tally get the No­bel com­mit­tee," tweeted au­thor Gary Shteyn­gart. "Read­ing books is hard." The Vat­i­can news­pa­per L'Os­ser­va­tore Ro­mano said some "real writ­ers" prob­a­bly aren't pleased.

But sev­eral lead­ing au­thors praised the news.

No­bel lau­re­ate Toni Mor­ri­son said in a state­ment that she was pleased and that Dy­lan was "an im­pres­sive choice." Sal­man Rushdie, who has writ­ten songs with U2's Bono, tweeted that Dy­lan is "the bril­liant in­her­i­tor of the bardic tra­di­tion. Great choice." Peren­nial No­bel can­di­date Joyce Carol Oates tweeted that "his haunt­ing music & lyrics have al­ways seemed, in the deep­est sense, lit­er­ary."

Dy­lan's award also was wel­comed by a ven­er­a­ble lit­er­ary or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Academy of Amer­i­can Po­ets.

"Bob Dy­lan re­ceiv­ing the No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture ac­knowl­edges the im­por­tance of liter- ature's oral tra­di­tion, and the fact that lit­er­a­ture and po­etry ex­ists in cul­ture in mul­ti­ple modes," ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jennifer Benka said in a state­ment.

Crit­ics can ar­gue whether "Vi­sions of Jo­hanna" is as lit­er­ary as "Wait­ing for Godot," but Dy­lan's stature among mu­si­cians is un­chal­lenged. He is the most in­flu­en­tial song­writer of his time, who brought a new depth, range and com­plex­ity to rock lyrics and freed Bruce Spring­steen, Joni Mitchell and count­less other artists to break out from the once-nar­row bound­aries of love and dance songs.

Dy­lan al­ready was the only rock star to re­ceive a Pulitzer Prize (an hon­orary one), and is, in fact, an au­thor, too: He was nom­i­nated for a National Book Crit­ics Cir­cle prize for his mem­oir, "Chron­i­cles: Vol­ume One."

He is the first Amer­i­can to win the No­bel lit­er­a­ture prize since Mor­ri­son in 1993, and his award prob­a­bly hurts the chances of such older Amer­i­can writ­ers as Philip Roth and Don DeLillo, since the No­bel judges try to spread the hon­ors around.

"Rather doubt Philip Roth and Don DeLillo wish they'd writ­ten "Mr. Tam­bourine Man" vs. AMER­I­CAN PASTORAL and UN­DER­WORLD," tweeted Roth bi­og­ra­pher Blake Bai­ley, re­fer­ring to ac­claimed nov­els by Roth and DeLillo. "But sure, ok."

Dy­lan's life has been a hy­brid of pop­u­lar and lit­er­ary in­flu­ences. A na­tive of Du­luth, Min­nesota, he wor­shipped Elvis Pres­ley and James Dean as a boy, but also read vo­ra­ciously and seemed to ab­sorb vir­tu­ally ev­ery style of Amer­i­can music.

His lyrics have re­ferred to ( and some­times lifted from) the Bi­ble, Civil War po­etry and Her­man Melville. He has con­tended that his classic "Blood on the Tracks" al­bum was in­spired by the sto­ries of An­ton Chekhov.

His songs can be snarling and ac­cusatory (" Id­iot Wind," ''Pos­i­tively 4th Street"); apoc­a­lyp­tic ("A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"); dense and hal­lu­ci­na­tory ("Des­o­la­tion Row"); ten­der and wist­ful ("Vi­sions of Jo­hanna"); brac­ingly top­i­cal ("Hur­ri­cane" and "Only a Pawn in Their Game"); and enig­matic and ab­sur­dist ("Stuck Inside of Mo­bile With the Mem­phis Blues Again").

"Blowin' in the Wind" was an in­stant protest an­them for the 1960s, yet sounded as if it had been handed down through the oral tra­di­tion from another cen­tury, with such lines as "How many times must the can­non balls fly be­fore they're for­ever banned?"

"Like a Rolling Stone," his take­down of a rich and pam­pered young woman forced to fend for her­self, was pro­nounced the great­est song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The six-minute record­ing from 1965 is re­garded as a land­mark that shat­tered the no­tion a hit song had to be three min­utes.

At a 1965 press con­fer­ence, he was asked whether he con­sid­ered him­self pri­mar­ily a singer or a poet. Dy­lan wise­cracked: "I think of my­self more as a songand-dance man."

His ca­reer has been such a com­pli­cated pas­tiche of elu­sive, ever- chang­ing styles that it took six ac­tors — in­clud­ing Cate Blanchett — to por­tray him in the 2007 movie based on his life, "I'm Not There." He won an Os­car in 2001 for the song "Things Have Changed" and re­ceived a life­time achieve­ment award from the Academy of Record­ing Arts and Sciences in 1991.

Dy­lan is the most unorthodox No­bel lit­er­a­ture prize win­ner since 1997, when the award went to Ital­ian play­wright Dario Fo, whose works some say also need to be per­formed to be fully ap­pre­ci­ated. By a sad co­in­ci­dence, Fo died Thurs­day at 90.

The lit­er­a­ture award was the last of this year's No­bel Prizes to be an­nounced. The six awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the an­niver­sary of prize founder Al­fred No­bel's death in 1896.

Chris Pizzello/AP

In this Jan. 12, 2012, file photo, Bob Dy­lan per­forms in Los An­ge­les. Dy­lan was named the win­ner of the 2016 No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture Thurs­day, Oct. 13, 2016, in a stun­ning an­nounce­ment that for the first time be­stowed the pres­ti­gious award to some­one...

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