Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature came as a shock, particularly to book nerds such as myself. How did Dylan surpass Murakami? Why were his lyrics equated with the works of Munro or Coetzee?


Online, I felt the wrath of fellow bookworms in pique:

But then, I found this article, and it made me pause:

Let’s get back to basics — What is literature? Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.”

Why did Bob Dylan win? “For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Dylan’s winning the award forces us to reconsider what literature is, and what deserves literary applause.  Here are some thoughts:

We can safely say that lyricism is a form of literature, but I hesitate to say lyric writing should be judged by the same principles as a short story or a lengthy novel. Podcasts, operas, blogs, etc., are all different mediums of literature (though it would be hard to say any blog is of of lasting artistic merit), all with vastly different creative procedures. In a prize that looks at the value of different literary fruit, it’s hard to put the apples up against the oranges.

I appreciate the idea of expanding to new literary forms to reflect a new age of media that ought to be noticed — but with more literary mediums comes more standards by which to judge. Should Dylan ever be on the same list as Hemingway? I’d argue not. Should Dylan be awarded for his lasting impression on song-writing? Sure, but perhaps somewhere else.

Are you encouraged  or disappointed that Bob Dylan won? Who should have won instead?