quarta-feira, outubro 19, 2016

Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome: The Nobel Prize 2016



On waking up on the morning of the 13th October, fragments of dreams bubbled up into my consciousness. First, I recalled being captured by aliens who wanted to take me to their home planet for dissection and other despicable things I’ll refrain from mentioning. Then, a news item popped up: Bob Dylan, that paragon of lyricism, had been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. WTF, I thought, what did I drink last night that made my brain dream up such ridiculous drivel. Then came the absurd idea that I actually had heard or read that Dylan had in fact won the prize the previous day; but, even given the long history of averageness being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, this seemed too crazy even for a dream. There followed a major struggle between the dream and reality hypotheses, until I was awake enough to realize that, yes, Bob Dylan, who invented lyrics of, as yet, unmatched pseudo-profundity-and-lyricism by using a rhyming dictionary and drugs, got the Nobel Prize in literature, hard to stomach even when Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Borges, Nabokov, Updike, and Auden, did not (*teeth grinding*). Up to now getting the prize came with a suspicion of mediocrity, now it is a certification of it. Words are the keyword. When you listen to singers (which they are) like Dylan, Cohen, and Waits, it’s the words that resonate because there's the melody that separates the words or phrases, so that it’s not about the whole of the lyrics. It's different to a Sinatra or Nat King Cole, or Simon and Garfunkel, where you follow the whole thing with absolute clarity and as a continuous whole, even country music, perfect lyrics too, much better than Dylan; and there's a category in between too. And sub-categories. But this is a discussion about music; literature doesn't come into it. Was this just a mistake, or a malicious attempt at promoting populism and subverting literature?

The reality is that there oft is no meaning behind the lyrics, they are poorly written, especially his later works and if anybody but Dylan had penned them any Dylan fan would laugh at their nonsensical amateurish nature. Most Dylan fans know this but won't admit it to each other (it's a classic case of the Emperor's new clothes syndrome). Dylan has not been relevant for decades. To award him a Nobel Prize in this year is laughable. It's akin to those meaningless lifetime achievement awards they hand out at the Oscars: populist feel good shite.

He, through no fault of his own, has robbed a worthy winner such as António Lobo Antunes (or many other vastly superior writers than Dylan) of the prize and recognition. I'm sure Dylan feels awful. I know I would.

I love Dylan fans trying to work out the complex meanings behind his simplistic lyrics.

NB: I’m fully prepared to get stick from that multitude of Dylan fans out there… Let them come, baby…

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