Why is everybody doggin’ Bob Dylan?
So what if he didn’t visibly display excitement, didn’t jump up and down and wag his tail, upon learning he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
So what if he’s not exactly yapping and scratching at the door to attend the upcoming Stockholm awards ceremony to receive the prize from King Carl VI Gustaf.
It really seems to bother people — respected journalists, less respected journalists, and lowly drama-seeking bloggers — that Dylan has not reacted like a “Price is Right” contestant who just won the showcase round.
To those people — those who demand effervescence from a man who, until he puts pen to paper, chooses to holds most things inside — we say, first off, don’t expect everybody’s personality to be the same as your’s.
Let Bob Dylan be Bob Dylan. And respect, as well, the privacy he seems to treasure.
After the prizes were announced by the Swedish Academy, Dylan had no public reaction for weeks, which, for some reason, became news. He reportedly “refused to pick up the phone” to speak to representatives of the Nobel committee.
How does anyone know he was refusing to pick up the phone? Why is it assumed he was being petulant?
Perhaps he was not home, or was otherwise occupied, or was under the impression he can live his life at the pace he chooses, talking to who he chooses when he chooses.
How dare he? How dare he not give the news media what it was looking for?
Well, he never really has. He has always been more of a wandering, independent stray than a mindless lap dog.
For all those who were fretting over his lack of a reaction, The Telegraph reported Friday that yes, he hopes to attend the ceremony, and yes, winning the prize was “amazing, incredible … Whoever dreams about something like that?”
So much for the theory that he was going to pull a Jean-Paul Sartre, the novelist who famously declined the award in 1964.
He has said he will be there “if he can,” but many find that unacceptable as well and have deemed his behavior “impolite and arrogant.”
Maybe. Or maybe not all of us are wired for public displays of enthusiasm.
I have been accused of lacking enthusiasm, because I’m generally quiet. For my part, it was a matter of realizing if I am constantly flapping my jaws, my brain can’t process the things it needs to — be it writing a story, solving some mystery of life, or locating the items on the grocery list.
I’m just one of those people who mostly celebrates without fireworks, and on the inside. I would never be chosen to compete in The Price is Right. I’m more likely to bare my soul, if I bare it at all, to a dog.
Interviewers, the smart ones, have found dogs to be the one topic that can get Bob Dylan going.
In any event, I’d guess the dogs in his life — and he has had many — have served to help him be a loner without being lonely. I’d guess he tells them more than he tells most friends, and definitely more than he tells the news media.
One of his first poems, written when he was 16 and in summer camp, was about a dog (Little Buddy) who died a tragic death.
He once credited “a dog lying on the floor” (his name was Hamlet) with helping create the relaxed ambience in which he and The Band put together “The Basement Tapes,” while living outside Woodstock in the summer of 1967.
In addition to the song featured atop this post, “If Dogs Run Free” (which he turned into a children’s book in 2013), Dylan refers to dogs in at least 30 of his songs, according to an article in Bark a while back.
“They seem to inhabit his world, his thoughts, and, ultimately, they come to life in his music,” the article notes. “…Dylan uses dogs as a messenger for mood, as set for the stage. You can picture them wandering down dirt roads, or collapsed on creaky porches. They’re dustbowl dogs and prowling alley dogs, dogs with no collars, dogs with no homes.
“It’s a hungry, lonesome quality about them that he touches upon, a sense of being, all at once, tired and restless. They speak to the human condition that surrounds them, suggesting what really doesn’t need to be said.”
Bob Dylan has always been very good at saying what needs to be said, and even better at not saying what doesn’t need to be said.
So whether he shows up to claim his Nobel Prize, whether his speech consists of “thank you” or he jumps up and down and says “ohmigod! ohmigod!” — those are questions we will just have to keep asking in the months ahead. Or not.
The answer, my friend, is … well, you know.