It was a chilly day in Ireland when I heard the news for the first time. Since then I’ve spent many moments with a cup of tea warming my hands, considering my reaction. At first, I was glad. After all, a songwriter has never won the Nobel Prize for Literature before. It’s revolutionary. As a poor poet and novelist who’s never written a song in her life, I admire those with the gift to make music into literature. Songs have the unparalleled ability to draw the deepest desires of the human heart. They touch our emotions and speak what our lips can’t. Music has great power.
In other words, I’m not saying I disagree with a songwriter winning the Nobel Prize. In fact, I think it’s wonderful. I’m not even saying Bob Dylan didn’t deserve it. It’s very likely he does. My objection comes from one seemingly inconsequential fact: I’ve heard his name before.
Many hundreds of times, in fact.
There have been accusations that Dylan’s silence after receiving the award was arrogant and rude. I’m not going to weigh in on that discussion, but I am going to mention my discomfort at the fact that the award isn’t mentioned anywhere on his website. It’s the most important prize any writer can win, isn’t it?
In my opinion, the point of any Nobel Prize is to shed light on accomplishments the world may not have noticed.
Let me slip into history for a moment. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. Originally it was meant to be a tool for construction workers, but as people began to use it for darker ends, the tide of public opinion turned against him. Perhaps as a way to apologize to the world, Alfred founded the Nobel Prizes to discover true art, science and thought among the everyday population. After inventing a weapon of mass destruction, he strove to undo the unwitting damage he’d done by building a culture and rewarding true seekers of peace.
I’m sad that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize because I don’t think he needs it. The extra recognition isn’t going to add anything to his fame or multi-million earnings. But it could’ve changed the life of some unsung genius toiling away in a tiny New York apartment – or anywhere else, for that matter.
I’m not saying this just because I’m a writer. Of course, I’d love to win the Nobel Prize. It would finally get my career off the ground, that’s for certain. But I doubt I’m the most deserving. I want it to go to someone who is, whether they’re a novelist, poet, songwriter, or any other type of word-weaver. I want the world to know the name of a brilliant mind that others have passed by. I want to walk in the footsteps of what I believe Alfred Nobel’s original intent was.
A prize like that should be a part of building a pantheon of true literary gods and goddesses who will be remembered forever. There are other ways to reach that status. Bob Dylan has already done it – he didn’t need a prize to prove it.
Somewhere in the slums, subdivisions, or apartment complexes of our world, thousands of literary works are going unnoticed every moment. Some of those were destined to grab our hearts and shift our thought processes. When will they get the chance? Who will pull them from the slush pile and thrust them into the limelight they deserve?
Or will the Nobel Prize turn into one more popularity contest like all the rest?