I’ve bought my first Bob Dylan record 45 years ago, and I’ve been listening to him closely and frequently ever since. I’ve written about how much he means to me, and I’ve even taught his music and lyrics in classes. I’m gratified that he is the only contemporary songwriter to be surveyed by a great literary critic. But I don’t think he should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, because I don’t think what he does is literature.
It’s not a lesser thing than literature; it’s just different. Singer-songwriters practice a hybrid art, because to their words they add music and performance. Dylan’s lyrics rarely offer great satisfaction when detached from his music and his voice — if you can find a way to detach them, which, if you’ve ever heard them sung by him, you can’t. The novelists and poets, even the playwrights, are working with a different set of restrictions, a different set of potentialities. Zucchini and pomegranates.