In 2016, it’s not shocking to hear the electric twang of a Fender Stratocaster at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. The multi-day event, which began in 1959, was created to celebrate traditional folk, country, blues, and bluegrass—none of which featured electric instruments in Newport’s early years. It was Bob Dylan who shook the folk community in 1965 by brandishing a Fender Stratocaster on stage at the festival. He might have been booed by the audience, but Newport Folk—and popular music—eventually caught up with his electric vision.
The 75-year-old songwriter was in the middle of an artistic controversy again this week, but it had little to do with music. Dylan received the Nobel Prize in literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Many Dylan fanatics already saw his lyrics as poetry and thought the prize was a justified nod to decades of critically acclaimed work. In the literary community, however, many saw the unusual selection as a slap to the face of lesser-known poets and writers.
Regardless of your position on Dylan’s prize, JDL has material worth your exploration. We’ve listed a few of our best resources on Dylan. If his “poetic expressions” aren’t your taste, though, we’ve included some books from alternative Nobel Laureates in literature.
Chronicles (Vol. 1) by Bob Dylan
Dylan Goes Electric! by Elijah Wald
Don’t Look Back (Criterion Collection)
Nobel Prize Winners in Literature
2014: Modiano, Patrick: So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood
2013: Munro, Alice: Dear Life: Stories
2012: Mo, Yan: Frog: A Novel