It’s an historic moment. It’s the first time a songwriter has won the prize, and, as expected, there has been a counterblast in the form of high-pitched, orotund murmur-beef from both the literary conservatives, as well as one Irvine Welsh who said ”I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.” Here’s a contrast: while writers like Irvine Welsh publish one astounding masterpiece and end up peddling the same formula (in his case: what I would call the ‘post-post-punk-modernist-seamy-druggy-arty-shocking’ post-80’s acclaimed literature cliché) half-successfully and to consistent, mild enthusiastic acclaim, Bob Dylan has created albums that have been regarded as among the greatest works of popular music, but most importantly, awful albums that have elicited headline remarks such as Greil Marcus’ blunt, gunshot ‘What is this shit?‘. Ironically it is this inherent inconsistency and flaw in Bob Dylan’s work that has made him as vital, exciting and genuine today as he has been for the last fifty years.
However, this comparison could be redundant, as everyone should accept that there is an essential difference between writers and songwriters; the poem and the song, the novel and the album. I choose to end with the truest piece of writing ever published about rock ‘n’ roll and popular music in general from (guess it) Mr. Robert Christgau: ”I love rock and roll because, unlike literature, it’s not caught in the cerebral, self-referential, and ultimately defeatist cul-de-sac of highbrow modernism. Physical and popular, it points the way out of (or at least waves at) a cultural dilemma in which only prodigious feats of deep feeling can achieve the political and economic equality the world depends on.” If ever there were a Nobel Prize for Music, it is by this ending criteria that it should be judged. Maybe this is what Bob deserves.