On Tuesday I joked with my freshman lit students that Thursday was the Super Bowl for English Professors, the Nobel Prize in Literature. Because of the time difference, the last ten years or so I always hear the announcement around dawn on the way to school, so I always have time to do a quick check, and if it's a poet or essayist, maybe even read a thing or two by the winner so that A) I myself know who the winner is (truthfully, I usually don't unless they're Anglophone) and B) So I can introduce the winner to the students so they'll have a little context or extra knowledge when they see or hear something on the news later in the day.
I was a few blocks from taking the left on Springs Road to get to class yesterday when Mike Greenberg on ESPN radio told me that Dylan had won. I laughed out loud. Made copies of the lyrics to Hollis Brown and It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) when I got to the office.
Ballad Of Hollis Brown
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Came to class and begged them, "Please. I have never ever had a class on Nobel Literature day where one of my students already knew the winner. Please, one of you PLEASE tell me you already know who won."
Three hands went up. That was good. Better than expected.
Two other hands went up. "Who's Bob Dylan?" That was bad. Worse than expected.
So I told them that I was sure there'd be controversy in Lit departments all over the world and why, and that I was pro-Dylan and that if they heard one of their other professors say differently I'd beat them up.
I explained that I picked Hollis Brown because that was one of the songs closest to what the Nobel people called the the "American song tradition"--as well as one of my earliest memories of Dylan--and I picked It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) to represent an accessible example of the praise the Committee had given of his "new poetic expression."
So I'm 65 minutes into a 75-minute class when suddenly Joy, one of the students who had known already, interrupted me.
"Wait a minute," she says, "He JUST won. I heard it on the radio on the way in. How did you prepare?"
"Oh heck, easy," I said, "It took five minutes to make 50 copies."
"But ... but ... how did you PREPARE?" she insisted
"Hmmmm," I considered, "I guess," I paused, "I've been preparing for this my whole life."
I don't know yet if I was sincere or joking.