A column by Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — For many years, winning a Nobel prize meant something. It meant you had achieved something really big — something beneficial to all humankind. It meant more than political correctness.
Well, no more.
We should have suspected in 2009 that members of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, which determines Nobel winners, had been drinking water from lead pipes for too long.
It was that year, as Barack Obama was just beginning his presidency, that he was awarded he Nobel Peace Price “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Even Obama seemed just a bit embarrassed. He hadn’t really done anything. But perhaps it’s a good thing the academy didn’t wait. If anything, the world now is a much more dangerous place than in 2009, in some measure because of Obama’s inept handling of diplomacy.
This year, however, the academy has really gone over the top, lowering the bar for its literature award to match the level for the peace prize.
The 2016 Nobel laureate for literature is Bob Dylan. Yes, that Bob Dylan.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a child of the ’60s, and I like both many of Dylan’s tunes and some of his lyrics. But he’s a musician, the first in Nobel history to receive the literature award.
Is Dylan in the same class as other Nobel winners in literature? Does he belong with John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, to name some of the American laureates?
Of course not.
Now, members of the academy seem miffed that since Dylan’s award was announced, he hasn’t said anything about it. He won’t return calls from the academy. His behavior is “impolite and arrogant,” one academy member said.
Others have said that about Dylan. But perhaps he’s just as mystified as many others about how he won.
It may be that the general quality of human beings isn’t what it used to be. Maybe the academy couldn’t find any really good writers to honor.
I have evidence to back up my theory: Look at the race for president of the United States. There are 325 million people in our country — and the two nominees, apparently, are the best we could do.
So members of the Swedish Academy may be hearing criticism from the United States, and wondering, “Where do those people get off criticizing our judgment?”
Myer can be reached at: [email protected]