Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan, Congratulations

Being of a certain age I can appreciate Dylan differently than others. In the summer of 1962, I was a Lifeguard in New York City and somehow, I really don't recall how, I got this blind date with a girl from Brooklyn, at Nostrand and Newkirk. So off I go, from Staten Island, across the Ferry, then into the bowels of Brooklyn. I am then told by the young lad, I don't recall her name of looks, but I remember Nostrand and Newkirk, that she wanted to go into the Village and see some guy in some coffee house. So back on the subway and off the Village to some place you walked down stairs to the basement and drank dark coffee in small cups amongst a few dozen people all of whom smoked except for me. Subway fare at $0.15 each way for each person was equal to half a pack and I wanted to spend my money on transport.

So up come this guy with a guitar, frizzy hair, and a harmonica hanging off his neck. He started to sing, the sound was like a cat dragged by the tail, but the words, well the words had meaning. He was not the Kingston Trio or Buddy Holley; he definitely was not Elvis. He was Bob Dylan. The memory festered in my head after I dropped the young lady back in Nostrand and Newkirk, and then back to the Ferry and then straight to work, for you see New York was not an easy place to get around. I would find it easier to get to Moscow by plane than Brooklyn by train, and yes Ferry.

About a year later my roommate Bob Glasser had become a Dylan fan. He had a guitar and that stupid harmonica, and song after song he imitated the dead cat howling, but the words, they were the same, and that was the power. He would sing Dylan and then listen to Jean Shepherd, or Shep, on the radio. It was a time when words meant something. Dylan stirred the soul, and Shep the imagination. You did not need an iPad, an iPhone, or an iWhatever. You heard words and used your mind.

Then in the summer of 1966 I went to a Dylan concert in New York, after the Dylan transmogrification into a rock personality. It meant less, but then I had changed as well.

So where does this lead? To a Nobel prize, and one I feel as a minor observer, well deserved. Dylan made many of us think, not wiggle with Elvis, sing along with the Beatles, or blend in with Peter Paul and Mary.

To my surprise some you person who appears to have a view of their own greatness feels the opposite. It appears in the NY Times, where else? After all it is the NYT, that rag of record, which has dragged its front page down the level of current day politics. One does wonder what else is going on in the world. But alas, one gets more from China Daily or RT, or even The Guardian and Le Monde. But from this lost lass we are told:

The committee probably did not mean to slight fiction or poetry with its choice. By honoring a musical icon, the committee members may have wanted to bring new cultural currency to the prize and make it feel relevant to a younger generation. But there are many ways they could have accomplished this while still honoring a writer. They could have chosen a writer who has made significant innovations in the form, like Jennifer Egan, Teju Cole or Anne Carson. They could have selected a writer from the developing world, which remains woefully underrepresented among Nobel laureates. They could have picked a writer who has built an audience primarily online, like Warsan Shire, who became the first Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014. Instead, the committee gave the prize to a man who is internationally famous in another field, one with plenty of honors of its own. Bob Dylan does not need a Nobel Prize in Literature, but literature needs a Nobel Prize. This year, it won’t get one.

My first response was; just who are you? My second was; oh well it is just the NY Times. Communicating ideas, complex thoughts, emotions, are literature, and doing so as did Dylan, especially at that time, was world changing. He started a process that lasted but a short while but which had great and lasting consequences. My question would be; what let's this young lass make such baseless a set of comments. The answer, the New York Times. Pity.