Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Responses to the news that Bob Dylan had been selected for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature have seemingly been at odds with my own.  But now Garrison Keillor seems to represent my view, though of course with his own focus.

He's also taken note of Dylan's own silence on the matter, a silence which has not surprised me.

"Precious few have dared to question the prize for Lit going to a performer," Keillor writes, "but Bob is queasy about it. We Minnesotans know about unworthiness."

He also comments on that other reluctant prize-winner of recent days, Bill Murray, who finally showed up to accept his Mark Twain Prize.  Keillor opines:

And let us, while we’re on the subject, deal with the ridiculous Mark Twain Prize for American Humor given out annually by the Kennedy Center to famous actors and comedians. Mark Twain was an author. He wrote “Huckleberry Finn,” remember? Huck and Jim on the raft? Ring a bell? He gave lectures for money to pay his debts when he was broke, but literature was his calling. The prize should go to Carl Hiaasen, a wildly humorous author from Florida who writes his books all by his own self, he does not hire writers as many of the Twain Prize winners do. Otherwise the Kennedy Center should change the name to the Shecky Greene Prize for American Comedy. Giving a prize named for the author of “The Innocents Abroad” to Bill Murray is like awarding the Heisman Trophy to a bowler. Wrong sport.

In case you think Garrison is exaggerating, previous winners of the Mark Twain Prize include Billy Crystal, Will Ferrell and Jay Leno.   Kurt Vonnegut, for example, was not among them, ever.

Naming a prize given to performers after Mark Twain is the problem--not the talent or achievement of the winners.  Giving the world's foremost prize in Literature to Dylan is in another category perhaps.  It seems at least in part like an award to flatter the many people who know Dylan's songs but have seldom if ever read a Nobel Prize winning author's books.  So far that seems to have worked.

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