I picked that subject line because I think it’s always described the one moment of pure happiness in Mr. Dylan’s oeuvre of “new poetic expressions,” as it was described hours ago by Sara Danius, a friend I never knew I had. And we’re all in that Portugal bar today.
And the mountain-tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing
I didn’t expect that he would ever win, and I developed a smartly deconstructive sour grapes attitude towards the Nobel: awards exist to honor the award-givers; no category of art can do justice to the sheer range of his singularities; the Nobel glorifies marginalized voices in a sanctimonious ritual of self-aggrandizing Democracy. The question for me has always been, does the Nobel deserve Bob Dylan?
I hadn’t expected it to feel this good, I admit. I keep crying. We’ve been handed a gold-trimmed ticket, is how I see it. Where are people talking about Shakespeare’s life forms? Keats’ prosody? Milton’s and Dante’s new myths from old cloth? Where are people talking about whether poetry can face down any void without filling it up with lies? I want Bob Dylan in all these conversations–any conversation about art, meaning, beauty, lies, the opposite of lies. Although he’s been in these conversations for decades, this big medal will get him in more of them, and that’s something I want.
Listen to Hard Rain, Mama You’ve Been on My Mind, Highway 61 Revisited, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine, Tangled Up in Blue, Gotta Serve Somebody, Not Dark Yet, Ain’t Talkin’, Tempest–no, of course you’d need a creature inhabiting more than three dimensions to design the wreath that could fit around just these nine songs. No Nobel committee could have anticipated that one person would write One Too Many Mornings and Scarlet Town. I thank the committee for acknowledging this life’s work that’s been right under its nose all these years. He doesn’t need you, but plenty of us are grateful for this gift–it will come in handy.
(And condolences to Philip Roth. I’ve bored people for years by saying repeatedly that Highlands is an entire Philip Roth novel in sixteen minutes. With a melody. And subtle and witty rhymes. And I am right. And Bob wins.)