I feel the same way about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature as I felt about Barack Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize: It’s inappropriate and a diminution of the award’s credibility.
In Obama’s case, he had been in office for all of 10 months when the Nobel decision was announced, meaning that he hadn’t even been given time to earn it. And while I voted for Obama and believe that history will place him in the top tier of American presidents, that doesn’t change the fact that he was given the award in 2009 for reasons other than his own accomplishments.
The same is true of Dylan. I love his music, I love his lyrics. And unlike Obama, Dylan has had more than sufficient time to make his mark upon the world and upon music, and he has used that time very well. He is undoubtedly among the handful or so of the most important cultural figures in my lifetime.
But in my mind, none of that justifies awarding him the Nobel for literature. He’s a great poet for a singer-songwriter, but if you take him outside that genre and gauge his work on its literary merits alone, he is not in the first rank of poets. Like Obama, he was given the award for reasons other than his literary output.
All that said, of course, he’s still a damn fine, creative mind, and we are all blessed to have shared this time and place with him.