Drinking White Rum In A Portugal Bar

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.)


8 thoughts on “Drinking White Rum In A Portugal Bar

  1. Wonderful!!!

  2. I pleased to see One Too Many Mornings get a mention along with better known Bob songs. It’s one of the unacknowledged greats – capturing the exact moment a relationship ends, like catching a bubble without breaking it – and that first harmonica passage is just too sweet and bitter and lonely for words.

  3. Listening to Bob sing “Why Try to Change Me Now?” a couple of nights ago in Phoenix was like hearing Billie sing “I’m a Fool to Want You” on Lady in Satin.

  4. Thank you for posting your reflections
    on the Nobel win. I so enjoy your perspective and I look forward to each new Gardener Is Gone dispatch in my inbox!

  5. Hi!

    I was just discovering your blog now and want to thank you for your effort. I speak German and come from Austria, a small country in Europe Dylan is visiting from time to time and also here many voices express very different perspectives. It is interesting to note, that those who oppose the Nobel Price Committee decision don’t question Dylans importance as an artist. Most critics say that Dylan does not fit the pattern the Nobel Price for literature provides, but the there is an overwhelming majority who loves him and thinks he was appointed rightly.

    As a life long Dylan fanatic I can also just agree with your words, that I haven’t expected that Dylan wins, but have to say it feels good. Not just because for Dylan himself but for all of us fans too. We always knew why we admired him, why we were listening to him all over again and why we were carefully watching his career and developments, but now the official art ambassadors know too and can’t depict us any more as strange nerds from Planet Bogus.

    So my greetings go to all Dylan fans around the world. Enjoy and listen carefully!

    1. Thank you very much for your comments. I feel confident that conversations exploring the value of cultural awards occur at a different level than, for the most part, they do here in the U.S. It is wonderful to hear that so many of us feel an affirmation or vindication; although I should stop right there, for that might be exactly the reason Dylan would be inclined to flee this particular prize.
      And even though “strange nerds from Planet Bogus” must be utterly magnificent in the original German, it’s an extremely delicious phrase even in translation.
      Yes–listen carefully! I love that.

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