Catching up on Classics (and lots more!) discussion

136 views
Chit Chat & All That > Nobel Prize & Mainstream Classics

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by bitmaid (new)

bitmaid Hi all:

I've been trying to phrase this as a question but apparently I can't phrase it as "a" question, so here goes.

What is the fundamental difference between Nobel Prize pieces (Pulitzer too) and Mainstream Classics? What are the criteria, audience and acknowledgement behind these prizes besides a prestige in itself (which I fail to fully grasp)? What does it mean if such works are not commonly read by the masses but are still highly regarded? - Is there meaning to a book if it's not read?

So that's my train of questions. Thanks for bearing with me!


message 2: by Melanti (last edited Aug 22, 2015 02:38PM) (new)

Melanti | 2384 comments Many awards have a set agenda/content that they're trying to promote.

The Pulitzer Prize is supposed to be given to a novel that best shows "American Life."

The Nobel Prize goes to an author's work as a whole - not just to one book - and it's supposed to go to work that's idealistic in some way.

The criteria, audience and acknowledgment, etc, vary depending on the award.


Truthfully, I've never found whether a book has won an award to be a very good predictor of whether or not I'll enjoy it.

There's a couple of really, really specialized awards that I take as a reading list for the year, but others - well, an award might bring something to my attention that I might not have heard of otherwise, but I don't give it any weight when deciding what to buy and/or read.


AS for how this compares to mainstream classics - well, there's no real answer. Some books are classics because they're just a lot of fun to read. Other books are classics because they're beautifully written. Still more books are classics because they're important historically - either in inspiring literature or portraying an event, or influencing history.


message 3: by Miikka (new)

Miikka (nurmis) | 50 comments I feel as though Nobel prize tries to identify works that bring something new in form and narrative. These are works that have more depth than the most bestsellers, usually in narration and characters, which in turn makes them more difficult to read and thus they are not as popular. Ideally Nobel Prize winning works are exploring literature as an art form in some way, whereas the most popular books tend to be more simple, story driven, fixed in their time and repeating something that has been done many times before. This is a very idealized, simplified and generalized view of the selection process though.

It must be also said that historically there has been authors that have been highly popular, but also highly esteemed by academia and critics. Pearl S. Buck, Honore de Balzac and Mark Twain come to my mind, but I am sure someone who knows the history of literature better might give more and better examples.

For me books with more "depth" have more meaning, they provoke me with more thoughts and make me reflect my life with what I have just read. That is not to say I don't enjoy reading plot driven science fiction and other more "simple" books, its just that the enjoyment I get from them is different and more "instant". Whatever meaning you get out of reading is solely given by yourself.


message 4: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Any opinions on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature today?

I think it's a ridiculous decision, but I know others that are very happy about it.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments That is bizarre.

Bob Dylan, huh?

They must have run out of people.


message 6: by Katy, New School Classics (last edited Oct 13, 2016 10:57AM) (new)

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
I didn't even pay attention to the literature prize. Wow. Not what I would have expected.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_priz...

Watch the announcement (in several languages):
https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_priz...


message 7: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Andrea, I liked this comment on twitter -

Nobel prize judges: "Shall we give it to an obscure Belarussian again?"
*silence*
"Well it *would* be quite cool to get to meet Bob Dylan"


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Ha!

That's funny, Pink!


message 9: by Nathan (new)

Nathan | 421 comments Pink wrote: "Any opinions on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature today?

I think it's a ridiculous decision, but I know others that are very happy about it."


I'm not a huge fan ( I don't enjoy his voice), but I think he isn't a bad pick. I like the idea of recognizing the power of songwriting as an art form. I don't think it gets much credit in many literary circles, yet it has a huge impact on the lives of many people.

Bob Dylan has had a very long, prolific career. His work is often political. I think someone who's more familiar with his music than me could make a strong argument that his writing has had massive influence on music and on American and global culture.

"Blowing in the Wind" is considered an anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s. It's a powerful song millions of people worldwide know by heart. It has been brought back and covered by other artists time and time again to advocate for peace and justice. And it's just one song of hundreds.

I understand the knee-jerk, "Huh?!" reaction, but I think the Nobel committee takes its job seriously. This pick gives us an opportunity to be open-minded and look at his work with new eyes. I plan to explore his writing more, despite his weird singing voice.


message 10: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Nathan wrote: "Pink wrote: "Any opinions on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature today?

I think it's a ridiculous decision, but I know others that are very happy about it."

I'm not a huge fan ( I d..."


Wow, Nathan, written beautifully. You've captured my sentiments to a tee. Thank you! :)


message 11: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 3951 comments I agree with Loretta, well-said Nathan. I'm all for elevating the art of songwriting, It's all personal taste of course, and Dylan is a polarizing character. But I'm one who has found his songs important and moving, and more for the poetry than the music, so personally I'm happy with this pick.


message 12: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments I like Dylan and his music and think he's worthy of many awards and accolades....but not the Nobel prize for Literature.

Although it's probably done it's job in getting the prize more attention and lots of people talking about it!


message 13: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) The lyrics of Dylan's songs are poetry. He expressed the views and angst of the age he lived in and for that, he deserved the Nobel Prize.


message 14: by siriusedward (new)

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2054 comments Thaks Nathan and Pink.

I dont know much about him.so wanted to ask about it too


message 15: by Tytti (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments From two years ago:
Scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles as part of long-running bet
https://www.theguardian.com/music/201...

"All the scientists are great fans of Dylan – he ought to win the Nobel prize for literature, suggests Weitzberg – but they are also realistic about his role in their careers."


message 16: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments I like the sound of those scientists, what fun they had!


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 56 comments Pink wrote: "Any opinions on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature today?

I think it's a ridiculous decision, but I know others that are very happy about it."


I was at first negative, but then I read a comment that made me rethink it. One commentator noted that the first major works of Western literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were actually songs that were sung for years and only eventually got written down. So they establish, it seems to me, the principle that song can be literature.

Then I thought that, well, poetry is literature, isn't it? And what Dylan writes, really, is poetry set to melody and rhythm. But I do think it's poetry, and in some cases very good poetry (a lot better poetry than some (IMO much) of what gets published in some of the highbrow poetry journals that my mother in law used to get). Why should a poet not be recognized for his literature just because he set his poetry to music?

This isn't saying that I would have given him the prize. But I don't think it's at all absurd, and I think that as long as we consider poets to be writing literature, I think Dylan is entitled also to be considered as writing poetry and not dismissed because, as the original singers of the Odyssey and Iliad did, he sets his poetry to music.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 56 comments Nathan wrote: "I like the idea of recognizing the power of songwriting as an art form. I don't think it gets much credit in many literary circles, yet it has a huge impact on the lives of many people. ."

That's certainly true. I bet he's influenced a lot more people during his lifetime than most of the other winners of the past decade or two. And IMO influenced in a good way.

Blowin' in the Wind is pure philosophy, isn't it? It echoes the despair of my generation, facing the Vietnam War and the Cold War, at having no idea what our (and their) governments were thinking, and why they couldn't just "all get along." It's more sensible, and more accessible, philosophy than anything in a college philosophy textbook.


message 19: by Susan O (new)

Susan O (sozmore) I agree that Dylan needs to be viewed as a poet and in that sense weighed against others and their contributions. He's certainly iconic and has had a far reaching effect, positive in my opinion. Also, I don't read poetry except as lyrics, so in that sense he has reached some that would never have read literature in that form. I don't know who the other nominees were, but I'm inclined to think he deserves it.


message 20: by Susan O (new)

Susan O (sozmore) I'm not asking people to respond to this, because some won't want to, but I do wonder if our opinions are split along age lines. I'm a child of the '60s/teenager of the 70s and remember the Vietnam war with its protests and some of the aftermath of the civil rights movement of the 60s. Dylan, although certainly not the only one, was a bold voice.


message 21: by Tytti (last edited Oct 14, 2016 06:55PM) (new)

Tytti | 1092 comments Everyman wrote: "One commentator noted that the first major works of Western literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were actually songs that were sung for years and only eventually got written down."

The Finnish national epic Kalevala: Or, Poems of the Kaleva District is meant to be sung and it was collected from the people who in Finnish are called "poem singers" or "poetry singers". Here you can hear it, sung by a man born in 1893: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz-2F... It uses Kalevala meter, a form of trochaic tetrameter. It's about a song challenge/battle between old Väinämöinen and young Joukahainen which Väinämöinen wins because he sings about important and deep stuff. No sword fights there.

Oh, and Susan, there really are no published "nominees".

There was also a Finnish singer-songwriter who was never really known for his singing but for his lyrics, and I think he wrote poetry, too. I don't know if Dylan deserved the Nobel but I think he is similar to our guy. Actually there are others, too, for whom lyrics are important and who also write poems.


message 22: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) Susan wrote: "I'm not asking people to respond to this, because some won't want to, but I do wonder if our opinions are split along age lines. I'm a child of the '60s/teenager of the 70s and remember the Vietnam..."

Susan, I graduated from high school in 1966. Bob Dylan's words spoke for me in a very eloquent way.


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 56 comments Lisa wrote: "Susan, I graduated from high school in 1966. Bob Dylan's words spoke for me in a very eloquent way. ."

1962 HS grad here, and I agree. But Pete Seeger and Joan Collins were even more influential on me.


message 24: by Pink (last edited Oct 15, 2016 02:38AM) (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Susan, you could be right about the age split, it may be a cultural split too with it meaning more to Americans who grew up in that era. I was born in 77 in England, so although I know a lot of Dylan's music, I didn't grow up with it around, which probably does make a difference.

I've been thinking about Dylan's music as poetry. Which I'd agree with to an extent, although he didn't choose to write and publish his work to be read, but chose a musical form to express himself. I don't think he'd have had at all the same impact without music as his preferred art form and his own personal style, which is a very different experience than reading his words on a page. In some ways I think looking at his work as literature is limiting to the power of his music!

Another thing to do with age and timing...I think it would have had more meaning and made more sense if he'd won it in the 70s when he was more relevant, but it feels nostalgic and a bit like a lifetime achievement award for him to get it in 2016. I know the prize is for a lifetime's body of work, but for me he was most influential decades ago, his music hasn't had the same impact since then.

In terms of The Odyssey or epic poems, yep that's oral poetry and so maybe musical in it's art form. It's hard to compare that era when experiencing stories was done by listening and not reading. Today I see them as quite different art forms, with some overlap. There are plenty of artists that write poetry to be published and read, as well as to be sung and listened to, such as Leonard Cohen. Or the more current Kate Tempest who definitely blurs the lines between these mediums. Her latest album, as a spoken word artist was released along with a poetry collection of the same name Let Them Eat Chaos although I believe she changed some lines to best suit each medium.

While we're discussing what constitutes literature today, I may as well mention the obvious one...Shakespeare! He wrote plays to be watched, not read. Although we read and enjoy his work today, as well as seeing it performed. It's hard to compare and assess him into today's world of mass publishing and literary prizes. Would he have won?!

Dylan winning seems to have invoked strong opinions either way, with some hating it and some loving it. It's quite interesting really that it's made people so passionate and it's gained widespread attention! I certainly don't think they'd be as many newspaper articles and social media mentions about the Nobel Prize for Literature if another relatively unknown European had won again!

I still hate that he won it, but I'm glad for those of you that are happy about it and for the interest it's generated! :)


message 25: by Susan O (new)

Susan O (sozmore) Pink, you make some really good points. Although literature taps into our emotions, music taps into a different part of our brain and evokes different types of emotions. And regardless of the literary quality of his lyrics, Dylan is first and foremost a musician. It also does feel a little like a lifetime achievement award.


message 26: by Tintinnabula (new)

Tintinnabula | 58 comments To me, the Nobel prize to Dylan felt a bit populist.
Last year the committee made a clear political statement giving the prize to Aleksievič, so probably this was a way to get out of yet other implications.

I totally agree with Pink when she says Dylan meant much less to Europeans, even the ones who should have the "right age".
Though my father lived the turmoils of the 60s and 70s, he was not listening to Dylan, but to other bands from his country (most people couldn't even understand English!).
Music is a great way to get people together, but if you don't understand the words in the lyrics, you won't be inspired by them!
Poetry is usually translated, published in books full of notes and explanations. This almost never happens with lyrics.


message 27: by Nell (last edited Oct 15, 2016 06:18AM) (new)

Nell Beaudry (lightfoxing) I hope it's okay that I'm jumping in, but I was engaged in quite a few conversations about this on Thursday.

One friend pointed out that Bob Dylan is part of the folk music tradition, which is really just a form of musical/oral storytelling. He isn't a singer first and foremost, or even really a musician first and foremost -- many would argue that he isn't particularly talented at either -- but a songwriter. It's his lyrics that speak to people, not necessarily the melody or the guitar riff or his voice, even. More than one book on my shelf has his name on the spine, actually. And what are album liners, with the lyrics printed, if not another form of "book"? To argue that he isn't a poet seems a bit essentialist and snobbish, to me, especially when you consider poetry's musical origins and traditions.

Tintinnabula, your point about poetry being translated and published in books full of notes and explanations jumped out at me, because most modern poetry isn't. Frankly, it probably doesn't sell well enough in its original language for publishers to bother with translations unless it's really, really incredible stuff. I don't think Leonard Cohen's poetry is even translated within Canada, and he's objectively very popular as both poet and singer (and, incidentally, would have been my preference if this award was going to go to a poet-songwriter-singer).

I don't think all song lyrics constitute poetry, but I think it's pretty clear that some do -- just like not all fiction is great literature, but some is. I don't see why that shouldn't be honoured.

Edit: I'll note that I'm in my early/mid twenties and that many, many of my friends are huge Bob Dylan fans.


message 28: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Nicole, of course you can jump in to any conversations! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us :)


message 29: by Tintinnabula (new)

Tintinnabula | 58 comments Nicole, well I don't know about modern poetry not being translated.
This is possibly true for English (or some other of the most used languages in the world), because you'll already have a vast production of poems in your own language. We do get a lot of translations, even if some are probably not the best.
It is common for well known literates to translate from English, French, German and Spanish, for example.

Of course I know my own country best, as you probably know yours!


message 30: by Desertorum (new)

Desertorum I actually don't have any opinion about this, since I don't know enough about Dylan's writing. But I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading different opinions about the topic and specially I enjoy that people can have different opinions and respect them! I mostly try to avoid internet discussion because usually there is no sense in them but here in goodreads there still is real conversation in good spirits!


message 31: by Pink (new)

Pink | 6554 comments Desertorum wrote: "I mostly try to avoid internet discussion because usually there is no sense in them but here in goodreads there still is real conversation in good spirits!..."

That's very true! I'm glad that we're able to discuss our different opinions here.


message 32: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 257 comments I don't think of song lyrics as literature. As nice and even meaningful as his songs were, I don't see music as literature. It's a whole different category. His songs are good though. I know that they were great songs for the 60s protest movement. I still see a song as one thing and literature as another. I respect all views though. Sometimes when I type, my statements look too strong lol!


message 33: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 257 comments Sorry so repetive!^^^^^


message 34: by Cindy (new)

Cindy  | 58 comments My husband and I were talking about this over lunch, when we first heard the news. My first thought was disappointment. I don't see song lyrics as literature. I feel sorry for the literature nominees. After reading the comments here I was more open minded. Song lyrics can be just as powerful as the written word in a book. Ever had a song put tears in your eyes?


message 35: by Loretta (new)

Loretta | 2668 comments Cindy wrote: "My husband and I were talking about this over lunch, when we first heard the news. My first thought was disappointment. I don't see song lyrics as literature. I feel sorry for the literature nomine..."

Yes Cindy, many songs move me with great emotion, just as books do. :)


message 36: by SherryRose (new)

SherryRose | 257 comments Songs are very moving and powerful but I still think of literature as books. Words can be powerful in movies and music but I don't see movies as literature even though there are writers who create them. Even if the movie is based on a book.


message 37: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 56 comments Sherry wrote: "I don't think of song lyrics as literature. As nice and even meaningful as his songs were, I don't see music as literature. "

If he had written the exact same words but published them as poems rather than songs, not attaching any music to them, would you feel differently?


message 38: by siriusedward (last edited Oct 15, 2016 09:56PM) (new)

siriusedward (elenaraphael) | 2054 comments Wouldnt everyone feel differently....maybe not many would have liked it..maybe other people would have liked ...
The thing is his music is intertwined with his lyrics...you cant seperate them...both are what makes him..


message 39: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 3951 comments Desertorum wrote: "I actually don't have any opinion about this, since I don't know enough about Dylan's writing. But I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading different opinions about the topic and specially I enjoy..."

I agree, Desertorum--I'm enjoying the interesting opinions and especially the good spirits here very much!


back to top