It’s astounding to me that we’re on this for a second day when the republic is collapsing around us, live on Twitter, but we still don’t know whether or not Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. I will answer this with finality here, and then we will move on to our bright new futures under Allfather Trump: yes, no, it depends, and (this last one is the important one) who gives eight shits?
Yes, Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature because Bob Dylan deserves. I’m aware that deserve is a transitive verb that requires an object, but I stand by my statement: Bob Dylan deserves. A Nobel, a Grammy, a swift kick in the ass, the Stanley Cup: Bob Dylan deserves all of these things. “What about an Olympic medal?” you might say, and I would tell you to shut the fuck up and listen to Blood on the Tracks again. Bob Dylan deserves.
No, Bob Dylan does not deserve the Nobel Prize for Literature because he doesn’t produce literature. Literature is books, or at least book-shaped objects. Poetry gets in there, and so do short stories, but the connecting thread is that it’s written down; furthermore, that the intended medium was the written word. Dylan’s lyrics have been published (and re-published and re-published), and of course they originated as words on a page, but their intended medium was an oral one.
It depends: this argument comes down to definitions, and may be seen as picayune, but it also may be a fatal one: words should mean things, especially to people giving out writing awards. Literature means the written word, delivered typographically. Are Martin Luther King’s speeches eligible for the Nobel in Literature? How about George Carlin’s stand-up routines? Bob Dylan’s lyrics (and he is being given the Prize for his lyrics, not his novels, which border on readable) were meant to be listened to, and not read. If you think literature means whatever the hell you want it to mean, then he deserves it; if you don’t, then he doesn’t.
And finally: who gives eight shits? If an organization wants to give Bob something, then I’m fine with it. The Hyde Amendment ended taxpayer support of the Nobel Prize, so I have no skin in the game. Been fun watching all the serious authors fuss, though: they all worked so hard on the perfectly vicious tweet. Maybe one day there will be a Nobel Prize for Twitter, and one of those serious authors will win that.