Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.Just this morning — a propos of what I won't say — we were talking about examples of individuals who gain an audience and then see their self-expression reflected in how that audience understands them, and they reject their own expression because they don't like how it looks. Who has done that? I thought first of Dave Chappelle, and Meade thought of the Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson. I came up with another name that doesn't really fit the category — Saint Paul — and Meade said Bob Dylan.
[Bob Dylan] dropped out of sight at the height of his fame; the cover story was a motorcycle accident, but as his autobiography, “Chronicles: Volume One,” makes clear, he really just wanted to raise his kids in peace, away from the hippies who harried his family. After going electric, he went country. In the late 1970s, as the New Wave era crested, the singer, raised a Jew, declared himself a Christian — and not the warm and fuzzy sort, either. What sort of pop artist works so diligently to systematically undermine his own popularity?To me, the question is why turn on the audience. I'm interested in the performers — and I count blogging and preaching and politicking as performance — who've detected their own flaws in the mirror of the audience. That's what they think I'm saying? That's their idea of following me, emulating me, engaging with me? Seeing what they are, I want to be different.
It's hard to believe Bob Dylan would like the Nobel Prize. It's just a topic to write articles about and to get traffic flowing wherever they're published. Remember the backstory to the song "Day of the Locusts":
"Sara was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go. I said, 'C'mon, Bob it's an honor!' Sara and I both worked on him for a long time. Finally, he agreed. I had a car outside, a big limousine. That was the first thing he didn't like.... When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown. He refused outright. They said, 'We won't give you the degree if you don't wear this.' Dylan said, 'Fine. I didn't ask for it in the first place.'..."Anyway, I was thinking about that line "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke," as we were talking about the old aphorism "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel" (which I attributed to Racine, and a commenter said was really from Horace Walpole). Bob Dylan also sings about getting a letter in which he was asked how he was doing: "Was that some kind of joke?" But there's more to comedy than jokes, so his contempt for jokes shouldn't mark him as a nonthinker, even if we take the old Walpole saying as gospel.
ADDED: Meade notes that Dylan did put on that cap and gown and accept the degree at Princeton, and he's accepted a lot of other awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013):