And the Nobel goes to…

Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016

When the Swedish Academy announced this morning that Bob Dylan was their choice for this year’s Literature Prize, people went crazy in exactly the ways you’d expect: his die-hard fans were jubilant; many writers and literature-lovers expressed open dismay; and others jumped into the fray to defend the award and call out the naysayers for snobbery and narrow-mindedness.

I think one can be nonplussed or even disappointed by this decision and remain innocent of elitism or parochialism or of suggesting Dylan is anything less than awesome. Sure, song lyrics are poetry, which makes it literature. Still, I don’t think the expectation that the award go to people who’ve spent their lives making, you know, books, as their principal occupation, is necessarily misplaced or snobby.

I am agnostic on the merits or lack thereof of the Dylan decision because I’m too busy feeling both disappointed and relieved, again, that Haruki Murakami didn’t win, an ambivalence I talked about in this essay that appeared at Lit Hub yesterday.

I’ve decided to just have fun with this Dylan thing. In fact, I applaud the Academy for thinking outside the box. Really, their flexibility about what constitutes “literature” and “writer” should extend to all the Nobel categories.

Dancing House in Prague (photo: Dino Quinzani)

In that spirit, here are my alternative picks for all of this year’s Nobels:

Chihuly Glasshouse


  • Physics: Architect Frank Gehry, because it’s all a matter of physics, the way those buildings actually manage to stay up. Runner-up: Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly because—hello? Serious physics at play.
    Japanese poster for “Spirited Away”
  • Medicine: Film director and animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose breathtaking work has improved mental health around the world and made endurable many sick days with small children.
    Iconic Salgado image from Serra Pelada gold mine
  • Economics: Photographer Sebastião Salgado, whose haunting black and white images do more to illustrate systems of inequality than tomes by actual economists.
    “Betty” by Gerhard Richter
  • Chemistry: Artist Gerhard Richter, because chemists may know stuff about chemicals, but visual artists actually do stuff with chemicals. Runner-up: Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly because—hello? Serious chemistry there.
  • Peace: Composer Philip Glass, because—come on, he obviously deserves a Nobel.
  • Literature: Bazillionaire Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling. Because: Why not? Children’s literature and popular literature are literature too. Plus she’s an upstanding global and literary citizen. Runner-up: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for using her words to such bad-ass effect.

You’re welcome to leave a comment with your own awardees below.

Meanwhile, I think we’ll all survive this latest round of Nobel decisions. As newly minted laureate Bob Dylan famously said: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

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