For years, Bob Dylan has been considered a longshot contender for the Nobel Prize. Nobel watchers have not taken the possibility of a Dylan win seriously, not because he isn’t a legendary talent, but because giving him the prize would be so out of character for a committee that has so often used the Nobel to bring a regional master to a global audience. A case can and certainly will be made that Dylan is as deserving as any other for something as arbitrary as a literary prize, but there is some disappointment in not bringing a lesser known talent to worldwide acclaim, let alone one whose primary medium is books.
That said, as far as rock memoirs go, Dylan’s Chronicles is considered perhaps the best of the genre. The book is meant to be the first in a trilogy but there has been little in the way of firm news as to when the second and third volumes might appear. In 2012, Dylan told Rolling Stone, “Let’s hope [it happens].” Certainly, however, the committee did not have Chronicles in mind when it gave Dylan the prize. A new edition of Dylan’s collected lyrics is set to be released within the next month.
In 2009, in these pages, Andrew Saikali made a strong case.
Whole books have been written, whole careers launched, with discussion of the lyrics of Bob Dylan. But reading Bob Dylan and listening to Bob Dylan are two completely different experiences. And it’s his melodies, vocal phrasing and musical arrangements that lift these masterful words off the page, animating them, haunting them, imbuing them with mystery.
In 2010, Jim Santel explored the suddenly popular rock memoir genre, setting aside Chronicles as an exception “among the most persistently disappointing of literary subgenres.”
In 2011, Buzz Poole reflected on Dylan’s 70th birthday: “Lurking in everything Dylan has ever done, for better or worse, is the myth of America, its chameleon-like quality to be everything to everybody its greatest asset, permitting openness, not for the sake of change but because of its necessity.”