Saturday, June 17, 2017

Did Dylan Swipe from SparkNotes for His Nobel Lecture?

That's the question recently raised by Vox.

It's not implausible.

I love Dylan. But it must be conceded that he has always been a heavy borrower, sometimes it's said, plagiarist.

There are the whole-cloth thefts of a southern poet on an LP some years ago, then his "original" paintings which turned out to be Dylan's renderings of post cards. Those are just a few examples his alleged artistic thievery.

But this seems to take things to a higher order of magnitude. It's one thing to mimic the musical styles of Woody Guthrie and Chuck Berry, or to take the words of Rimbaud or Ginsberg as models for lyrics. It's another to swipe from an online equivalent of Cliffs Notes for a Nobel lecture.

Some will, I suppose, write this off as another example of Dylan's impish disregard for social norms and other people's opinions. But, this is actually serious business. Plagiarism is serious business, especially when it involves the most recent Nobel laureate for literature.

The irony here is that no artist I know of more jealously guards his copyrights. You can find some Dylan performances on youtube, but he routinely quashes a lot of videos of his performances from appearing there. And on Apple Play, Dylan's lyrics don't appear with his songs.

I still think that Dylan deserves his Nobel Prize for Literature. His body of work is filled with originality and daring re-imagining of old ways of writing and speaking.

Nonetheless, if this is all true, Bob, what were you thinking, resorting to thievery from an online source like some disinterested high school kid trying to make the deadline for a term paper?

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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