Editor’s Note: David R. Wheeler is a freelance writer, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa, and the editor of the online magazine AliveTampaBay.com. Follow him on Twitter: @David_R_Wheeler. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
David Wheeler imagines a meeting of the Royal Academy in Sweden as it waits for Bob Dylan to acknowledge his Nobel
The Nobel committee awarded its 2016 Literature Prize to the folk singer but cannot reach him
Minutes from the Royal Swedish Academy Meeting, Stockholm, Sweden
Date: October 18, 2016
Subject: Bob Dylan
Elsa calls the 10 a.m. meeting of the Royal Swedish Academy to order.
“What’s the status of the ‘Dylan situation’?”
“Not good, Elsa,” Viktor responds.
“How many times have we called him in Malibu?”
“Too many to count,” Ludvig (the academy’s secretary) says, popping his head through the open door on his way to get coffee.
Elsa taps her pencil against a yellow legal pad. “Any other ideas?”
Bob Dylan: Voice of a generation
Everyone stares in silence at the red telephone in the middle of the table — the one that will ring only if it’s Bob Dylan calling them back.
Erik sheepishly raises his hand. “We could try contacting Victoria’s Secret. Dylan did a commercial for them a few years back. Seems like they might have some leverage with him.”
Elsa groans. “The Royal Swedish Academy is not going to stoop to begging an American lingerie company to help us get in touch with someone we want to give a Nobel Prize to. We’ve already compromised the integrity of this prize by giving it to a folk singer.”
“Not this again,” Viktor says, rolling his eyes. “Elsa, the Nobel Prize must stay relevant. Dylan changed popular music. He changed a generation.”
Anton, wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, speaks up. “I’m so sick and tired of hearing about the baby boomers. What about Generation X? What about the people who changed popular music in my generation? Now that Dylan has basically snubbed us, I think it’s time we reconsider my idea for the Nobel Prize for Literature.”
Agnes, who has been silent until now, picks up her laptop and walks out, slamming the door.
“Does anybody remember my idea?” asks Anton.
“Yes,” Viktor says. “You wanted to give it to Paul Westerberg of the Replacements.”
“Exactly,” Anton says. “And we wouldn’t have had this problem if we’d given it to Paul.”
Viktor glances around the room nervously. “Anton, you’re not going to launch into one of your…”
Anton cuts Viktor off by reciting lyrics from “Can’t Hardly Wait”: “Jesus rides beside me / He never buys any smokes / Hurry up! Ain’t you had enough of this stuff? / Ashtray floors, dirty clothes and filthy jokes.”
Elsa stands up, angrily. “It doesn’t compare to ‘Highway 61 Revisited.’ Best first line of a pop song ever: ‘God said to Abraham, kill me a son…”
Ludvig walks in, back from getting coffee, breaking the tension in the room. Elsa sits back down.
“Where’s Agnes?” Ludvig asks.
“Don’t ask,” Erik says, shaking his head.
“Can I have Agnes’ mocha latte, then?” Ludvig says, removing it from the cardboard carrier.
“Fine, Ludvig,” Elsa says. “Now can we please get back to deciding what to do about the Dylan situation?”
“Easy solution,” Anton says, taking a swig of his salted caramel mocha. “Give it to Paul Westerberg.”
Klara, the only millennial in the group, raises her hand. “Could we consider giving it to a songwriter from my generation?”
The group bursts into laughter.
Bob Dylan, in the beginning
“You mean like Taylor Swift?” says Erik, grinning widely.
Anton, already laughing uncontrollably, spits out his coffee into a napkin. “Erik, you gotta warn me first!”
The red telephone rings. Everyone freezes.
“Well, somebody answer it!” Erik says.
Elsa sets her pumpkin spice latte down and slowly reaches for the phone. “Hello?” she says, pushing the “speakerphone” button.
“Hey, is this the Royal Swedish Academy?” says a familiar voice. The sound of waves crashing can be heard in the background.
“Yes,” Elsa says. Her eyes widen. She looks around the room, locking eyes with each academy member one by one.
“I was just thinking … I have an idea for you,” says the caller, seemingly trying to suppress laughter.
“Yes, go on,” Elsa says. “We’re listening.”
“Well, I have an idea for who should win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year.”
Academy members look at each other.
“It’s my … my neighbor. He’s five years old. He came up with a cool new drink called Blue Bonanza with his chemistry set!” The caller laughs for about 30 seconds. Sounds of a hand slapping a table can be heard amid the crash of the surf.
“Maybe this whole thing was a bad idea,” Elsa says. “Move to table this discussion until tomorrow?”
“So moved,” says Viktor.
“All in favor?” Elsa asks.
Everyone raises their hands. Academy members leave the room one by one. The caller continues to laugh. “How about the Peace Prize to my neighbor down the street, a divorce attorney who got the Johnsons to agree to mediation?”
Elsa, left alone, hangs up the phone.
10:30 a.m. Meeting adjourned.