The morning Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, I was really just relieved. The radio said “Bob Dylan has…” and I prepared to curse cursed 2016. But he won the Nobel Prize for Literature! That’s fun!
Bob Dylan’s position is so secure in society that it was really hard for me to imagine any “establishment” that he could piss off. His career began by annoying people who like good singing, before moving on to famously irking people who dislike loud guitars. Having already mastered “being extremely underwhelming” by the end of the ’70s, and trying his hand at alienating people by enthusiastically embracing Christianity in the ’80s, it seemed like Bob Dylan Provocateur could only really piss people off by being a revered songwriter who now was only releasing cover albums (check!—twice!). But there was still a group of privileged, preachy, self congratulatory liberals rigidly stalking around Twitter like it was the Newport Folk Festival, and the Nobel Prize for Literature went electric on them.
I watched my feed, as their hands shook like a frightened person in an action movie trying to load the HOT TAEK Revolver. Bullets were falling to floor—He’s overrated! Joni Mitchell’s better! He’s a plagiarist! What did he ever INVENT? The Nobel Committee didn’t read any books this year?!
Intersectional, anti-hierarchical lit professors were huffing about how rock lyrics couldn’t possibly be literature. Bob Dylan didn’t even go to college! How dare the Nobel Prize for Literature go to someone whom a bunch of people like without our help! Catching their reflections they wondered when they turned into crew-cutted old men in horn-rimmed glasses in a Beatles documentary. The glasses were right but…catching themselves they called Bob Dylan a straight white baby boomer male, and hoped that’d cover them as they explained that it’s just rotten privilege for someone who is enjoyed outside of graduate-level MFA programs to win this award.
A guy who writes about sexism in comic books advocated for Chuck Berry instead, presumably because of the poetic superiority of “My Ding a Ling” and because he could make his 50 bucks for an article about why we shouldn’t give the Nobel Prize to people who watch little girls pee a lot easier than he could write an article about why Bob Dylan sucks. He ended with an incredible self own. This man who makes a living writing (prolifically) about problematic decisions made in Netflix-released superhero dramas and spends his days shaking a cup on Twitter to ask people to pay him to write a book about vampire movies, by saying “it’s nice to be outraged about something that doesn’t matter at all.” You don’t get to have perspective, dude. You already knew it was nice so you made a career out of it. He went back to defending Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Then, as if in aggregate of all these people, were the people who were angry that Philip Roth didn’t win. In that moment, imagining my feed in light of Philip Roth’s victory (Portnoy’s complaints paling in comparison) it was nice to be reminded that there was an option that would’ve been so, so much more obnoxious.
Ladies and gentlemen, your winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature: the man responsible for the worst song I have ever heard.