Here’s Why Bob Dylan Won the Nobel Prize in Literature Today

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At the New Republic yesterday, Alex Shepard suggested that this might be the year for Don DeLillo to win the Nobel Prize in Literature:

No American has won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 23 years, not since Toni Morrison. And it’s easy to presume that the game is rigged against the United States: In 2008, Horace Engdahl, then the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, went out of his way to dis American literature as a whole….The backlash to Engdahl’s comments was severe….But the criticism changed nothing: Seven Nobel Prizes in Literature have been awarded since then, and none of them went to Americans. Many in the U.S…think that the Swedish Academy has blackballed American writers.

….Of all the leading American Nobel candidates, DeLillo is a writer of the moment…. Swedish journalist Jens Liljestrand of the newspaper Expressen also thinks that this might be DeLillo’s year. “The Academy is very much aware of the fact that their disregard for American literature is starting to look silly, and might even make the ‘brand’ of the Nobel Prize suffer internationally,” he wrote in an email.

Call me cynical, but this is the lens through which I judge Bob Dylan’s Nobel win. The Academy did indeed feel like their boycott of American literature was starting to look silly, but they still didn’t want to award a prize to an actual American writer. So they chose Dylan. No matter what you think of his work, I view this as practically the ultimate snub of American novelists. You think Pynchon and DeLillo and Roth and Oates are great writers? Hah! They’re not even up to the standards of a good pop singer.

And now they can spend another two decades ignoring American writers.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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