Our Culture is Blowin' Away in the Wind

On hearing that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, my son Spencer emailed me to ask, "When do they announce the Nobel Prize for Best Supporting Actress?"

It's a funny line, but for those of us who care about the state of the arts, it's gallows humor. The Dylan prize is a cry of victory from a generation of vipers — my generation — that has succeeded in sending what was once the greatest culture on earth into a spiral of decadence.

Which is not to say a single bad thing about the songs of Bob Dylan. They're great. I love them. And he's an icon of American music, like Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. But if Satchmo or Frank got the prize, I would say the same thing. Because they didn't create literature. And neither did Dylan.

It's a category error, but it's a category error with an agenda, or at least a skewed and stupid point of view. A Nobel committee that gave Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for being inaugurated while black has confused Things We Like with Things of Greatness. It is the signature mistake of the Baby Boomers.

In announcing the prize, Sara Danius, the Nobel Committee's permanent secretary, said Dylan "is a great poet." No, he's not. He's not a poet at all. He's a popular songwriter and yes, I would say he's a great one. I like to listen to his songs anyway, and so do a lot of other people. But popular songs are not poetry and they're not literature.