The Nobel Prize for Literature has endured a checkered past. It has been awarded to some authors that most commentators agree were unworthy. And the prize was denied to some of the greatest name in 20th Century literature: James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jorge Luis Borges.
Awarding Dylan the prize seems a recognition that how literature is judged has shifted from the old days. Great, influential literature is no longer something produced solely by literary authors--such as Faulkner, Hemingway, and Bellow. Great literature can be written by popular songwriters. And if it can be written by popular songwriters, then it can be written by those in the book world previously shunned: genre and bestselling authors.
Those who write science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, horror, or thrillers, the Nobel Committee seems to be saying indirectly by implication, might also be worthy of the prize in the near future. It makes sense that if Bob Dylan is worthy, so might be J.K. Rowling, for example.
Dylan opens the floodgates. Many kinds of authors who could never expect to win the Nobel are now on the table and under consideration. A few of the authors I think have a reasonable chance of winning the Nobel at some point:
- J.K. Rowling
- Stephen King
- George R.R. Martin
- John Grisham
- Stephenie Meyer
Authors of these sorts would never have been considered in the old days. Now, post-Dylan, their ability to touch so many readers with their stories and characters seems a valid reason for them to win literature's biggest prize.