Selections from Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture in Literature

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When Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature, I wrote about how it was a wake-up call for literature. I still believe that. I’ve never been a huge Dylan fan to be honest, but I thought awarding the prize to him was important. Some of the best modern poets are, or have been, musicians.

Here are some of my favorite parts of Dylan’s impressionistic Nobel Lecture, released this week.

About Moby Dick

We see only the surface of things. We can interpret what lies below any way we see fit. Crewmen walk around on deck listening for mermaids, and sharks and vultures follow the ship. Reading skulls and faces like you read a book. Here’s a face. I’ll put it in front of you. Read it if you can.

About All Quiet on the Western Front

You’ve come to despise that older generation that sent you out into this madness, into this torture chamber. All around you, your comrades are dying. Dying from abdominal wounds, double amputations, shattered hipbones, and you think, “I’m only twenty years old, but I’m capable of killing anybody. Even my father if he came at me.”

About The Odyssey

In a lot of ways, some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies. You too have come so far and have been so far blown back. And you’ve had close calls as well. You have angered people you should not have. And you too have rambled this country all around. And you’ve also felt that ill wind, the one that blows you no good. And that’s still not all of it.

The Coda

If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important. I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it – what it all means. When Melville put all his old testament, biblical references, scientific theories, Protestant doctrines, and all that knowledge of the sea and sailing ships and whales into one story, I don’t think he would have worried about it either – what it all means.

John Donne as well, the poet-priest who lived in the time of Shakespeare, wrote these words, “The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts. Not of two lovers, but two loves, the nests.” I don’t know what it means, either. But it sounds good. And you want your songs to sound good.

That’s worth repeating:

You want your songs to sound good.

Speaking of sounding good, the lecture is not quite the same unless you listen to it:

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About Author

David Olimpio is the Editor-in-Chief of Atticus Review. He grew up in Texas, but currently lives and writes in Northern New Jersey. He believes that we create ourselves through the stories we tell, and that is what he aims to do every day. Usually, you can find him driving his truck around the Garden State with his dogs. He has been published in Barrelhouse, The Nervous Breakdown, The Austin Review, Rappahannock Review, and others. He is the author of THIS IS NOT A CONFESSION (Awst Press, 2016). You can find more about him at davidolimpio.com, including links to his writing and photography. He Tweets, Instagrams, and Tumbles as @notsolinear and would love for you to join him.

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