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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011


"Please God no  -  don't give Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize in Literature". This comes from a blog post by Chauncey Mabe here. Needless to say there are a number of agitated comments underneath his piece.

Chauncey Mabe sounds like an anagram to me. Possibly of Abeyance Chum or Acme Hyena Cub.

Thanks to Andrew Muir for pointing me to Mr. Mabe's posting.

My thoughts are with Gordon Ball at this time. Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (the highlighted sentences are those added for the updated paperback edition):

Ball, Gordon [1944 - ]
Gordon Victor Ball Jr., born Paterson, New Jersey, on December 30, 1944, is an underground filmmaker turned Colonel and Professor of Literature at the Virginia Military Institute, and is the man who has nominated Dylan for the Nobel Prize for Literature annually since 1996.
            He first took an interest in Dylan’s work in 1965, but his first published article about it was a review of Renaldo & Clara. Some early listenings to Dylan are recounted in his book ’66 Frames: A Memoir, published in 1999.
            In 1968 he was hired as ALLEN GINSBERG’s farm manager, later editing the poet’s early writings. His book Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote Ginsberg’s entry in the Encyclopaedia of American Literature and JACK KEROUAC’s entry for the Dictionary of American Biography. At the Caen University Dylan Colloquium of March 2005 he delivered a paper on ‘Dylan and the Nobel’.
            GREIL MARCUS probably speaks for many when, asked if he thinks Dylan will ‘ever get the Nobel Prize for Literature’, replies: ‘I hope not. There are thousands of novelists more deserving than he is. It’s a prize for literature; he’s a songwriter, he’s a singer, he’s a performer. Anyway, Bob Dylan’s won lots of awards, he doesn’t need this one. There are plenty of people who need the money, need the readers.’
            Gordon Ball remains undeterred. In March 2007 he was a valuable contributor to the Dylan Symposium at the University of Minnesota, and an enthusiastic attendee on the pre-conference bus tour to Hibbing.

[Gordon Ball: ‘Review Notes and a Community Proposal’, North Carolina Anvil vol.12, no.567, Durham NC, 5 May 1978, p.8; ’66 Frames: A Memoir, Minneapolis MN: Coffee House Press, 1999; Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Greil Marcus: interviewed by Thomas Storch, Isis no.122, Bedworth UK, Sep-Oct 2005, pp.47-49. Bob Dylan Symposium, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 25-27 Mar, 2007; Hibbing bus tour 24 Mar.]


Anonymous Kieran said...

It's a strange life Bob lives. Notorious plagiarist one day, Nobel Laureate (potentially), the next. He never remarks on either.

I think he should be given it! Why not? He's following the tradition of great Greek poets by singing his work. He's given the English language it's greatest song lyrics since maybe William Blake (or is that hyperbole?) and his very finest work is poetry as influential and fluent as any other.

He probably won't win because it might not sit well with the so-called academic elite, etc, but I think he deserves it...

12:51 pm  
Blogger Corfu Bluesman said...

The great Greek poets didn't sing their own work, if you are referring to Nobel Prize Winners Seferis and Elytis. Many Greek composers set their words to music.

3:46 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Hiya Corfu Bluesman,

Nah, I was referring even further back - I know, a bit of a stetch to compare Dylan to Homer, but I'm talking about the tradition which existed before of poets chanting their work, and Dylan is no different.

He runs into the Dylan v Keats thing when this award comes up: some serious writers have won it in the past. But his achievements are solid and his use of language quite daring and brilliant, at times. Especially when he caused language to erupt and ally itself with music in a way which hadn't been seen in a while.

It's a subjective award. It really comes down to whether or not they think his work fits the profile of their award...

6:32 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

Anagram: Bum chance! Yea!

8:46 pm  
Anonymous Chris Gregory said...

Personally I'd like to start a campaign against up and coming British poet William Blake being given the Nobel Prize for literature. After all, his best known work is 'Songs Of Innocence And Experience'. Obviously not literature"!

The door is closed for ever more
If indeed there ever was a door

Chris Gregory

12:06 am  
Anonymous Elmer Gantry said...

Just a note to let you know that the great (a word I do not use lightly) Bert Jansch died today.

There is an obituary of him here:

His great version of "She moved through the Fair" is here:

Sad, sad day

1:17 am  
Anonymous Elmer gantry said...

This is the album version of 'she moves Through the Fair':

To my mind, this is as close to perfection as it gets

4:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

idiot wind from the grand coulee dam etc SHHHHHHHH!

8:12 am  
Anonymous Elmer gantry said...

From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words

9:57 am  
Blogger oh mercy said...

I’ve been looking for the criterion which the committees use in awarding prizes but haven’t found it yet.
From Nobel’s will:
“…one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …”
I found this:
“Nobel’s choice of emphasis on “idealistic” or “ideal” (English translation) in his criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature has led to recurrent controversy. In the original Swedish, the word idealisk translates as either “idealistic” or “ideal”.[ In the early twentieth century, the Nobel Committee interpreted the intent of the will strictly. For this reason, they did not award certain world-renowned authors of the time such as James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, and Henry James.
“More recently, the wording has been more liberally interpreted. Thus, the Prize is now awarded both for lasting literary merit and for evidence of consistent idealism on some significant level. In recent years, this means a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale. Hence the award is now arguably more political.”

I posted my thoughts on this on the article Mr. Grey linked to above. Essentially I've given my ideas why Bob fits both of those categories if any one is interested.

5:52 pm  
Anonymous Elmer Gantry said...

Last Thoughts on Bert Jansch

I called Bert 'great', which I think he is (or was) but should add that i don't see him as being in the same league as Bob. I suppose the major difference between them is bob's constant gift for re-invention and for taking unexpected paths.
Unlike bob, Bert set a tenplate with that brilliant first album (a far more accomplished debut than Dylan's, it must be said) which never deviated that far from in his subsequent career.
After the first album, as well, his song-writing could be patchy and a sameness entered into some of his work.
Nevertheless, he was still capable of writing occasional great songs and he remained a peerless interpreter of both folk songs (I recommend the CD Rosemary Lane, which is perhaps, his masterpiece) and of Jackson frank sons like the 'Blues Run the Game' and 'Carnival' .

10:17 am  
Anonymous Elmer Gantry said...

There is a superb tribute to Bert by Ralph McTell here:

12:17 am  
Anonymous MarkG said...

Perhaps if they gave his the Nobel Prize for Literature, people would finally wake up to concept of songwriting being a branch of literature (just as cinema is a branch of the visual arts).

And then we could all stop judging songwriters by comparing them to poets. They're two different things - which is why it always fails, without exception, when somebody tries to set a poet's work to music.

Songs are literature written to be sung.

5:51 pm  

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