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Two thoughts on Bob Dylan’s reaction to the Nobel

by , posted on Monday, December 12th, 2016 at 12:57 pm

1. Let’s not overdo the importance of “credit in the straight world,” i.e. mainstream acceptance. These are the same people, let’s not forget, that gave Henry Kissinger a Peace Prize. Whose awards in the sciences have repeatedly omitted women’s contributions. Dylan did acknowledge the prize. He just didn’t jump when they said jump. He sent the Swedish Academy an acceptance speech that thanks them for the unexpected honor, but also makes it quite clear that he is a bit ambivalent about the prize. Would we have expected modern artists to bow down before the Paris Salon when the academic painters finally got around to acknowledging them? Of course not. Why expect Dylan to be any different?

2. Dylan is routinely found on lists of famous people most likely to have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s entirely possible that his social awkwardness — readily apparent since Day One with him — has as much, or more, to do with the way his brain is wired than it does with a simple lack of manners. The only thing he didn’t do, really, was heed the call for a command performance in the form of a speech delivered in person. I’m not surprised. Dylan almost never speaks to his audience when he performs. Never has. And one sees in interviews, which he rarely has given, that he isn’t particularly comfortable even making eye contact with people. He doesn’t need the approbation of the Swedish Academy, and he doesn’t need their money. Why voluntarily put yourself in the middle of an extremely uncormfortable social situation if you don’t need to?

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For Tom Hayden

by , posted on Friday, November 11th, 2016 at 10:36 am

Coming of age in the wake of Watergate, in the waning days of the Vietnam War, the student movement of the Sixties made a great impression on me, even if only a bit after the fact. Contrary to conventional wisdom, that

generation of activists was still very much on the scene as I began to become politically active myself in the mid-Seventies. And as I learned about that recent history, it was the founding generation of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, that I identified with most. Tom Hayden, especially

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