October 13, 2016

"There are novelists who still should win (yes, Mr. Roth, that list begins with you)..."

"... and there are many others who should have won (Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov, Auden, Levi, Achebe, Borges, Baldwin . . . where to stop?), but, for all the foibles of the prize and its selection committee, can we just bask for a little while in this one? The wheel turns and sometimes it stops right on the nose."

Writes David Remnick of the "astonishing and unambiguously wonderful thing" that is Bob Dylan's winning the Nobel Prize in literature.

The wheel turns and sometimes it stops right on the nose.

The wheel turns and sometimes it stops right on the knows.

The wheel turns and sometimes this wheel’s on fire/rolling down the road/best notify my next of kin/this wheel shall explode!

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade says:
If it were up to me, I'd have given the award to Erica Jong. 
I know what he means, because I understand Dylanspeak. He's gesturing at a song called "Highlands":
Then she says, “You don’t read women authors, do you?”
Least that’s what I think I hear her say
“Well,” I say, “how would you know and what would it matter anyway?”
“Well,” she says, “you just don’t seem like you do!”
I said, “You’re way wrong”
She says, “Which ones have you read then?” I say, “I read Erica Jong!”
She goes away for a minute
And I slide up out of my chair
I step outside back to the busy street but nobody’s going anywhere
And I go away for a minute, because I have this rat picture I want you to see:

rat 1

It's Rattatz, the official rat of the Althouse blog. You voted, remember? I had to run off and get him, because "Highlands" is one of the 5 Dylan songs with "rat":
Windows were shakin’ all night in my dreams
Everything was exactly the way that it seems
Woke up this morning and I looked at the same old page
Same ol’ rat race
Life in the same ol’ cage
3 of the 5 songs have "rat" in "rat race." The other 2 are "Clean Cut Kid" ("They said Congratulations, you got what it takes'/They sent him back into the rat race without any brakes") and "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)" ("While one who sings with his tongue on fire/Gargles in the rat race choir/Bent out of shape from society’s pliers/Cares not to come up any higher/But rather get you down in the hole/That he’s in").

And I don't care to come up any higher, but will get you down in the rat hole that I'm in, and say that the other 2 of the 5 songs are "Froggie Went A Courtin’" ("Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides") and "Motorpsycho Nightmare":
I was sleepin’ like a rat
When I heard something jerkin’
There stood Rita
Lookin’ just like Tony Perkins
She said, “Would you like to take a shower?
I’ll show you up to the door”
I said, “Oh, no! no!
I’ve been through this [movie] before”
I knew I had to split
But I didn’t know how
When she said
“Would you like to take that shower, now?”

Well, I couldn’t leave
Unless the old man chased me out
’Cause I’d already promised
That I’d milk his cows
I had to say something
To strike him very weird
So I yelled out
“I like Fidel Castro and his beard”
Rita looked offended
But she got out of the way
As he came charging down the stairs
Sayin’, “What’s that I heard you say?”

I said, “I like Fidel Castro
I think you heard me right”
And ducked as he swung
At me with all his might
Rita mumbled something
’Bout her mother on the hill
As his fist hit the icebox
He said he’s going to kill me
If I don’t get out the door
In two seconds flat
“You unpatriotic
Rotten doctor Commie rat”

47 comments:

Meade said...

If it were up to me, I'd have given the award to Erica Jong

David Begley said...

So what will be served at the Meadehouse celebration tonight?

Larry Day said...

That looks like a good rat.

Meade said...

"...up to me..." is also Dylanspeak.

Ann Althouse said...

"So what will be served at the Meadehouse celebration tonight?"

A bottle of bread, trout, and a pie that smells.

Earnest Prole said...

So what will be served at the Meadehouse celebration tonight?

Hard-boiled eggs

William said...

I wonder if Roth is miffed. It's one thing to lose to Bellow but Dylan? I'm glad that that that forest murdering Joyce Carol Oates didn't win. Maybe she can explore her hurt feelings a series of trilogies.

Char Char Binks said...

That's a well-deserved victory by Rattatz.

AReasonableMan said...

A few good tweets:

"I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard."

"Apparently Bob Dylan's planning a brilliant acceptance speech. Then, to tour an incomprehensible version of it for twenty years."

"You know what really needs to be celebrated more in our culture? Massively popular music!"

Mountain Maven said...

The Nobel Committee soils itself yet again. Dylan hasn't produced anything listenable in many decades.

Mountain Maven said...

I'll bet Erica jong has a heart of gold.

AReasonableMan said...

Another.

"Have they inducted Don De Lillo into the Rock n Roll hall of fame alongside Def Leppard and Slayer yet?"

buwaya said...

Well, you have a choice - listen to Dylan or read something by someone like Saramago.

The Vault Dweller said...

I can now look forward to twenty or thirty years in the future when the Nobel prize for literature, is awarded to Eddie Vedder, or perhaps Dave Grohl.

buwaya said...

"Have they inducted Don De Lillo into the Rock n Roll hall of fame alongside Def Leppard and Slayer yet?"

When someone uses his stuff as the libretto. Not likely is it?

Sort of, if they were doing an Opera hall of fame, they would have to include Da Ponte in there along with Mozart.

You know that many if not most of Kiplings were set to music?

Mandalay by Peter Dawson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N6dvVyfLbc

AReasonableMan said...

a few more:

"If Bob Dylan gets a big head about this and RUINS my parents' weekend at AARP Coachella with his diva antics, I swear to God...."

"Bob Dylan's win makes a lot more sense when you see this photo of the Nobel Committee."

traditionalguy said...

They don't give Prizes to dead people. So Bob needed his now.

In any event, it was a Wonderful choice. They gave That prize to John Steinbeck back in the early 60s when Zimmerman was coming along next.

Now my two favorite writers both have one.

William said...

There's used to be a pecking order among songwriters. The guys on Tin Pan Alley wanted to write a Broadway show, and the Broadway composers wanted to write operas or symphonies. Dylan moved between folk and rock, but I don't think he ever contemplated a Broadway show or symphony. Did he ever get into rap? ...... . This is a quantum jump in status for songwriters. I don't think it will ever be topped. "Emmy? I don't need your stinking Emmy or Tony or Oscar. I got a Nobel. Up yours Gershein".......Of all the composers, I think Kurt Weill was the most fortunate in his choice of lyricists. I connect with some of Dylan's lyrics, but I'm bound to confess their meaning, if any, is subliminal.

traditionalguy said...

Norge doesn't favor Americans. Only 12 out of 115 were American. Steinbeck was 6 and Dylan was 12.

Smilin' Jack said...

"So what will be served at the Meadehouse celebration tonight?"

Word salad.

FullMoon said...

"So what will be served at the Meadehouse celebration tonight?"


Not: Brown rice, seaweed, and a dirty hot dog?

Sebastian said...

"And I slide up out of my chair/I step outside back to the busy street but nobody’s going anywhere" Questions: How do you slide "up" out of a chair? The phrase "nobody's going anywhere" seems disconnected from the rest of the poem; what role does it play, other than providing a trite rhyme? The main exchange in the poem is humorous, but the language, rhyme, and imagery seem rather conventional; what makes the poem as a whole Nobel-worthy? (I know, I know, they've honored dreck in the past. But Bob isn't dreck. Bob is good!)

Meade said...

Good ones, FullMoon, Smilin', Earnest.

Whatever, we'll probably start with a bottle of wine.

Maybe I'll see if I can balance a mattress on it.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Who's Bob Dylan?

Char Char Binks said...

Who is Norge? Is he Swedish?

Guildofcannonballs said...

You slide up out of a chair by A) not jumping or slinking and B) getting up out of it.

The people in the town go about their business, not leading them anywhere in a meta sense such as if one were "going back to Cali, to Cali." Or going to Kansas City for that matter.

Now friend, you need to buy something through Althouse's Amazon portal.

Symbiosis.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I still feel the best thing about B. Dylan is his character, which was revealed, at least in my estimation, when some cop aged in her(?) early 20's picked up Bob thinking he was a bum.

He answered he was playing a show when he was asked "what are you doing in town?" and also that he was staying at a certain hotel, so she took him to the hotel and sure enough, it all checked out. Older people laughed at the youthful cop(s) for not knowing who Dylan was, but Dylan did an almost 180 degree opposite of the "do you know who I am?" schtick certain folks like to play as if it were some damn divine decree in America that who someone is is more important than their actions.

"Skip" Gates was condemning all of white America near the same time because cops were responding to a call at his property.

Obama said the cops acted stupidly, without having a clue as to what happened.

I think Dylan and all the cops in these two stories acted with character, and Obama and Gates did not.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"Graceless slave,
you know who I am,
You know I can't let you,
slide through my hands"

Wild Horses (NOT Wild Whore Says!!!) by Gram Parsons

So if we find a slide to blame we can put blame on Gram; he's dead see.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

The Vault Dweller said...I can now look forward to twenty or thirty years in the future when the Nobel prize for literature, is awarded to Eddie Vedder, or perhaps Dave Grohl.
10/13/16, 2:36 PM

I think by then they'll be awarding Nobel prizes for Twitter tweeters.

Robert Blair said...

Modern "poetry" (ie, that published and sold as such) is unequivocally dead, and has been so for many decades.

There are, I think, no 21st century "poets" (as defined above) who make their living from the sale of their poetry to the public.

Strangely, there are more full-time "poets" alive now than at any time in History. All are on the public dime, in one parasitic way or another. Maya Angelou is a good example.

Real modern poetry, the verse that people want to hear, and are willing to pay for, is in the popular music lyrics. Is all popular music great poetry? No way! Most of it is complete trash.
But quite a bit of it, as poetry, ranges from OK to quite good, with flashes of genius here and there.
Dylan was asked: "How do you decide if something you write is a poem or a song?".
"Well", he said, "I try to sing it, and if it sounds good its a song. If it don't sound good when I sing it, its a poem.".

Bob Dylan has been the pre-eminent poet of the world for many decades now.

The Nobel Committee is correct.

Mac McConnell said...

Bad Lieutenant said...
"Who's Bob Dylan?"

He's the guy in the Triumph motorcycle tee shirt.

rcocean said...

I used to think Althouse's love of Dylan was based on nostalgia and an odd liking for nasally, Jewish singers.

But in fact, it was based on a love of Literature.

How I misjudged her.

Who's your favorite fiction writer, Althouse? They might be in line for a Nobel Prize.

Mac McConnell said...

I think the Professor's nostalgia comes from Dylan's bad boy image, his tight young ass on the seat of that T100. It's common for women who grew up in the 50s and came of age in the 60s.

Think about the icons that women of that age adore who rode Triumph T100s.
Dylan
Neuman
Dean
Eastwood
Brando
McQueen
Beatty

Chicks can't help themselves.

Sebastian said...

"I still feel the best thing about B. Dylan is his character," Yes, without knowing his whole oeuvre, that's the vibe I'm getting as well.

@RB: ""If it don't sound good when I sing it, its a poem." Bob Dylan has been the pre-eminent poet of the world for many decades now." I understand that, given the blanket indictment of "modern poetry, that's not saying much, but still: what is it about the intrinsic qualities of the poetry as poetry, i.e., not sung as Dylan himself insisted, that makes it "pre-eminent"? Or is it just a matter of popular vote?

The previous Nobel poets include Kipling, Tagore, Yeats, Eliot, Neruda, Milosz, Brodsky, Heaney, and Szymborska. That's a pretty impressive list, even allowing for Neruda's nasty politics. I'm no expert, but I have read some or much of the work of all these people, each great in his or her own way to this amateur reader. I'm not saying Dylan doesn't belong -- don't know enough to judge -- but why does he?

traditionalguy said...

Norge is the name of Norway used by the Norwegians who don't know the real name in English. They also favor Norwegian authors.

tim in vermont said...

What Robert Blair said.

Char Char Binks said...

@trad

What does Norge have to do with The Nobel Committee for Literature at the Swedish Academy ?

Mac McConnell said...

Kipling won a Nobel for poetry, note his poem IF was actually about owning antique motorcycles.

"If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with TRIUMPH and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:"

buwaya puti said...

Maya Angelou - thats the other major cause of the decline of interest in literature in the schools. She and Toni Morison.
One-two whammy, and the poor kids break out in hives near any wad of paper. Its a most reliable thing. Mention any book, and they start tensing up and looking around for the quickest way to flee.

Locally they make absolutely, thoroughly sure, with, I gather, exquisite oriental cruelty. They assign Amy Tan.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

There was a piece in the NYT today to the effect that Dylan didn't deserve the Nobel because he sang his words. Nonsense. The very earliest poetry was sung. Personally I prefer Dylan unsung, because his voice was and remains bloody awful, but that's no excuse for disqualifying him from the Nobel.

buwaya puti said...

The Iliad was sung, but the tune is forgotten.
Various reconstructions have been attempted.
The NYT are as usual a gang of tasteless fools.

I wonder what you have to do to work there.
There is some test that measures, with some accuracy, the unique blend of idiocy and depravity that they seek.
Some things man was not meant to know.

Robert Blair said...

@Sebastion: "what is it about the intrinsic qualities of the poetry as poetry"

I am assuming you understand that the Nobel Prize committee are talking about all of Dylan's lyrics in their award, not just the small amount of stuff he published as "poetry".

A direct answer to your question: its a matter of opinion. But, some artists tend to, over time, develop reputations for being "great", ie, preeminent. You could say that its a popular vote, but it is a popular vote that persists for very long time.

Shakespeare we remember, and his plays are produced all over the place. I don't see edgy Hollywood directors putting on plays by Andrew Marvell. Me, I can't wait to see the new Shakespeare movie (it will be out on Google Play or Netflix soon).

Will Dylan's fame as a poet survive? Well, maybe - if the evidence so far, the Nobel Prize, and number of books and papers written by Literature Professors and the like is any guide.

How many Literature Professors have written books about the poetry of say, Taylor Swift?

Guildofcannonballs said...

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (at no marginal cost to you save time, the dear taxpayer)

"If your mem’ry serves you well
We were goin’ to meet again and wait
So I’m goin’ to unpack all my things
And sit before it gets too late
No man alive will come to you
With another tale to tell"

always sounded like "we were gonna meet again (soon) anyway, so I'm going to unpack all my things and stay before it gets too late. No man alive, will comfort you, with another tale to tell"

This is a link to the version I once knew as not Dylan derived. My error is your gain.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"How many Literature Professors have written books about the poetry of say, Taylor Swift?"

Fewer than Pac; all is well.

But the fact is colleges and Uni's have been striving so valiantly to waste taxpayer dollars in the quest to demand righteously more taxpayer dollars there are courses on T. Swift, or at minimum relegated to her level or lesser of content, all over.

Thought sucks, memorization of what the authorities demand us remember rules all.

And don't you forget it.

AReasonableMan said...

Dylan is the António Egas Moniz of his generation.

buwaya puti said...

If the worst the universities are up to are classes on the poetry of Taylor Swift (and I have no clue as to what they are like, write in any popular songwriter), it would be a considerable improvement on the current situation.

Freeman Hunt said...

The right rat won. Will the right rat win our presidential election?