The recent decision to award this year’s Nobel Prize For Literature to Bob Dylan has, as they say, provoked some comment. Because Alice Munro won the same prize in 2013, and I was lucky enough to be part of the Stockholm festivities then, I found myself being asked earnestly for a comment on this surprising new development.
At the Gala for the Literary Review of Canada I drew myself up and said judiciously, with a straight face,”The times they are a-changing!”
In fact, when I heard from a distant radio that the Nobel Prize was going to “Dylan” for a confused moment I thought that it was a retro-active recognition of the literary excellence of Dylan Thomas, who was clearly not going gentle into that good night.
No such luck. But if excellence in writing lyrics is now Nobel-worthy, if posthumous awards became possible I would happily lead a campaign for the great Cole Porter, whose “You’re the Tops!” will never be topped.
But let us consider the links between Alice Munro and Bob Dylan. None of Alice’s work has, as far as we know, been adapted for Dylan’s songs, but “The Love of A Good Woman” must be a strong candidate. I’m sure my wise readers will have their own candidates. And “Sad-eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” might well apply to the former Alice Laidlaw.
You see, like Alice, Bob Dylan has strong links with Scotland. Let me explain.
You may be surprised to learn that this academic recognition for Bob Dylan did not come out of the blue. In 2004 the University of St. Andrews in Scotland awarded him an Honorary D. Litt. If you go to the University’s website, you can see Bob, formally attired, with his hair approximately brushed, posing beside sober academics at my old University. St. Andrews is Scotland’s oldest, and (according to recent surveys, and not just my opinion) best, university, so the honorary degree was clearly a step on the ladder towards the Nobel Prize.
There is a Canadian link here. When my Winnipeg friend Gordon Sinclair was showing me around the city a couple of years ago, he took me to the house where Neil Young grew up. Apparently, some years ago the house-holder was surprised to answer a knock at the door and find Bob Dylan standing there. He was keen to see around the house where his admired friend and fellow musician Neil grew up. Bob drifted politely around the house, then moved on. Like a rolling stone, some might say.
I’ll be in Waterloo on Thursday 3 November, hosting a tribute to Edna Staebler at Wilfrid Laurier in the evening.
On Saturday 5 I’ll be at the WINDSOR BOOK FESTIVAL, at the Art Gallery at 3.00 pm.
on Sunday 6 I’ll be in London at the LONDON BOOK FESTIVAL at the Museum at 1.00pm.
Lots more events to come. But tell your friends about these.



  1. Frank Green says:


    I enjoyed reading your two books during the past year and they led me to some others like Hugh’s great book on Canadian Rivers. So I decided to go to see your show if you came to London again. I was in the audience on the 6th at Museum London. I particularly enjoyed the story you told about Farley Mowat’s book signing. It reminded me of the time he came to Fanshawe College for a reading back in 2000 and I was fortunate to be one of a half dozen to get to have lunch with the great man before the reading.

    Mr. Mowat was consuming large doubles of vodka during lunch so I said to him, “I had you figured for a rum man.”

    “Well I used to be a rum man,” he said, “until my friend Jack McLelland got very sick and his doctor told him that if he didn’t stop drinking rum he was going to die. ‘Drink
    vodka,’ said the doc, ‘it preserves your innards.’ So I’ve been drinking vodka ever since.”

    This seemed to be working for Farley, since he looked about 30 years younger than his
    actual age.

    • Douglas Gibson says:

      My goodness, so Farley was busy preserving his innards with vodka!
      A wonderful story, Frank. Please come up and say hello next time I do a show in London.

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