Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture


I haven’t been able to make my mind up about Dylan’s win of the Nobel Prize, partly because I’ve never been able to make my mind up about Dylan. At times I see the genius some people credit him with, and at other times I see The Great MacGonagall.

In any case, given his usual intense privacy, his Nobel lecture is surprisingly revealing and personal, an exploration of the words—both in song lyrics and in books—that have influenced him, and springing from “wondering exactly how [his] songs related to literature.”

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”