A Debate Slowly Won


The lanky committee member seemed to wither under the chairperson’s poetic sensibility. He stacked his papers, bowed his head, jaw clamped shut.

“All right, then,” said the chair, “If you don’t want Dylan, whom do you want? And why?”

The room swelled with an uproar of opinions. Some wanted Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist who had been keeping a rather high literary profile for several years. No, someone groused, too postmodern. Really? a shrill voice answered, how is too postmodern possible? Other names soared, and then fluttered into silence: John Banville, the Irish novelist. Adonis, the Syrian poet. Joyce Carol Oates, the American novelist, short story writer and essayist. Ngugi waThiongo, the Kenyan man of letters. Ko Un, the South Korean poet. But there were seemingly fatal objections to each. And these amounted to a few rationales:

  • Too predictable
  • Too enmeshed in national or local politics
  • Boring
  • Obscure

The chair placed her hands on her table, palms down and sighed contentedly. “Then let me give you my reason for going forward with this Dylan fellow.”

“Please,” a plump, black woman hissed. “Surely there must be one.”

“More than one, actually,” said the chair, “and I recited one on page forty-five.” She waved the paper “A Simple Twist of Fate” had been typed on. “He’s been at this a rather long time; since he was twenty or so.”

A man in saffron and red robes leaned forward, an earnest, questioning look on him. “Was his writing developed at that age? Because he was at it at that age doesn’t mean much otherwise.”


“Better if anything,” said the diminutive committee leader. “Let me read you a couple of samples. The first was at the time termed a protest song – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gathering
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears

The robed man nodded slowly. “Powerful,” he said in a near whisper. “Most powerful.”

“The most elegant call to action I’ve ever heard,” said a man with a deep basso.

“Quite so,” said the chairperson. “And now a sample from one called ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.’ Also written in his youth.”

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

No one spoke for a while. A woman wiped her eyes with a kerchief, and the basso man attempted to speak but his voice trembled too much for utterance.

“It’s a dystopian image as hard as that McCarthy man from America writes.”

“He wrote this in his youth?” asked the robed man.

“Yes,” said the chair, “an old soul, though, it seems.”

“Well,” the lanky man said, clearing his throat. “I suppose it wouldn’t be out of line to award this Dylan, then.”

Approving voices rose all around.

The chair smiled. “I was hoping you’d agree.”


~ To Be Continued ~


Visit my website here. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.


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