Legendary American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s selection as the Nobel Prize winner for literature has sparked controversy on social media, but the polarizing pick is earning praise among some Canadian writers.
“Bob Dylan is one of the greatest poets of all time,” said award-winning Montreal-based author Kathleen Winter, citing Dylan’s 1963 track “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” among her favourites.
“If we look at his lyrics and we look at the time span, and the social importance and the artistry, there’s no question of that in my mind. And I think if people are going to get their knickers in a knot over the fact that he’s also a musician I think it’s a bit small-minded.”
Bestselling fantasy author and Order of Canada member Guy Gavriel Kay tweeted that he was “almost irrationally pleased” to see Dylan win the esteemed prize.
“One thing to value in Dylan is evolution as an artist,” Kay wrote.
“This is a prize for writing. He’s 75, not the kid at Newport in 1965,” he added, in reference to a festival where the folk legend went electric.
Queen’s University English professor Tracy Ware said he felt a mixture of “surprise and delight” upon learning that Dylan was receiving the honour.
“I’m not surprised … that there’s some resistance to it, and one reason for that is there’s always been some resistance to Dylan,” he said from Kingston, Ont.
“I can remember as a kid (when) ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ came on the radio, somebody would say, ‘Turn that off!’ There’s people who couldn’t stand his voice….
“I think it’s more of a minority, now that he’s got increasing respect for all of the different kinds of songs that he sings.”
In addition to being the first musician awarded the Nobel literary honour, Ware said the award is typically given to writers who have been involved in social causes. In that regard, he sees parallels between Dylan and Canadian author Alice Munro, who received the same prize in 2013.
“She’s my other great delight because she also has been a really private writer, gets involved in no causes, doesn’t sign petitions, doesn’t make public appearances. The prize simply went for her great talent — something that must also be true of Dylan.”
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