Yesterday, prolific folk singer Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is a crock of shit.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I care about the Nobel Prize, nor will I pretend that I can even name more than a handful of winners over the 115-year history of the prize. We’re all familiar with groundbreaking work that netted Nobel victories for Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, and Martin Luther King Jr. Similarly, we’re familiar with the bitter irony of a criminal warmonger like Henry Kissinger being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the grand scheme of things, some folk singer getting a prestigious prize in literature is a fairly innocuous event. But this is the Internet, and if you’re on the Internet, you either take a hard stance or log the fuck off. Fuck Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan’s piercingly nasal timbre had been shitting up the planet for almost 30 years before I was even born. The Earth has not once let me forget it. Starting in roughly 1960, a young Bob Zimmerman embarked on a half century of unprecedented posing. Here in 2016, it looks like he may never stop. Over the years he’s self-mythologized through so many personas that Bob Dylan might as well not exist as a real person. Which version of Bob Dylan do you want? The young man desperate to be a beat poet/Woody Guthrie amalgamation? The politically conscious freedom fighter stealing melodies from slave songs? The coked-out rockstar Bob Dylan? (Note: this era persisted for a good while) Country music Bob Dylan? Born-Again Christian Bob Dylan? Hip hop Bob Dylan? Creepy motherfucker in a Victoria’s Secret commercial Bob Dylan? No matter which you choose, your end result is a mediocre talent with an insatiable thirst for celebrity.
As a man in his late 20s, I do not respect the legacy of Bob Dylan. Nor should you, if you’ve not not been touched by his music personally. “Bob Dylan” is a product of 50 years of media saturation, starved of artistic inspiration from anything that happened beyond the 60s and 70s. It’s not Bob Dylan’s fault that he’s maintained legendary status for so long. No man, no matter how much of an egomaniacal monster he may be, can stay on top for half a century on his own. To his benefit, the massive wave of human spawn known as Baby Boomers have damned us to a world in which Bob Dylan is an uncontested genius.
Baby Boomers are desperate to impart the glory of their youth upon younger generations. Woodstock, The Beatles, Elvis. These are all touchstones in American culture that they demand must be treated with the gravitas of world-changing elemental forces that they surely were – to teenagers in the 1960s. Rolling Stone, the paper of record for Baby Boomers, has to date featured Bob Dylan on its cover TWENTY SEVEN TIMES (first appearance issue 12, latest appearance issue 1222). Lazy biographies and Time Life compilations don’t sell themselves. As a commodity, Bob Dylan is an easy sell to the legions of nostalgia-hungry Boomers of the world. The rest of us are collateral damage. I was a teenager in the early 2000s. Can you imagine me trying to convince my grandchildren to respect the counter-cultural institution of Limp Bizkit starting a riot at Woodstock ’99? Of course not. If nothing else, we’ve learned to avoid being self-important fools, lest we emulate Baby Boomers.
Though he’s been the subject of countless documentaries, biographies, anthologies, and lyrical dissertations, Bob Dylan has written a single book by himself (allegedly). It was one part of a planned three-part autobiography. It was released in 2004. If the Nobel committee wasn’t thirsty for PR, Bob would never have a Nobel Prize in Literature. But sometimes, just sometimes, Bob Dylan penned timeless poetry.