Dylan and literature
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2016 - 12:00am

There are times when a columnist like me, for a brief moment, rebels against writing opinions  about the usual headline or social topics like Trump, Duterte, China, political risks and similar subjects. Perhaps, it is because Christmas is near and surely it is a time to be an optimist.

At first, I decided that I would write about Christmas books that should be read by parents and children during the holidays. Then I stumbled upon Bob Dylan’s speech read for him as he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. If you remember, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for his lyrics in his famous folk songs.

I asked friends in the business and political worlds if they were aware of the speech. Surprisingly a few were aware. But most ignored the speech when I explained that the theme of his speech was: what is literature?

I wish I could reproduce the entire speech but space limitations will only allow me to quote excerpt and make a few comments, with due apologies to the Manila Critics Circle who are obviously more qualified, in this field, than I am. Dylan said:

“ Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I could never have imagined or seen coming. From an early, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction, Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

Then came the most interesting parts of Dylan’s speech. He started by talking about Shakespeare. Dylan said: “ ...William Shakespeare the great literary figure, I would reckon thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. ..I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question: “Is this literature?”

Dylan then sad that when he was a teenager, and even as he started to achieve renown for his abilities, his aspirations for his songs only went so far. All he dreamed about were making records and singing on radio. He has a piece of advice for writers and serious entertainers:

“ As a performer, I have played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and it is harder toplay for 50 people. “

He ends by saying: “But, like Shakespeare I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavor and dealing with all the aspects of life’s mundane matters. Who are the best musician for these songs? Am I recording it in the right studio? Is the song in the right key?“ Some things never change in 400 years.

“ Not once have I ever had time to ask myself: Are my songs literature?” –Bob Dylan

What is literature?

After a little research, it seems the definition of literature evolves or changes. In my library, I have two books, One book is 1001 Books : You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall. I have never counted whether there are really 1001 books.

The books are divided into time categories: Pre-1700, 1700s; 1800s; and 1900s. I scan the book once in a while but I have never really used it as guide for reading.

I have another book: defining moments in BOOKS: The Greatest books, writers, characters, passages and events that shook the literary WORLD. This supposed to be the ultimate booklovers’ guide to 1,000 of the most important moments that shaped a century of books.

I realized that there was a new age in literature when I attended this year’s National Book Awards. There were awards for graphic literature which during my schooldays we called comic books. We were not allowed to bring comics to school or read them even during recess.

Perhaps it’s the new technology or simply an evolution. I think it may be time we leave to the next generation – the millenials – to seek their own definition of literature.

I only hope nobody minds if I will continue to read F. Sionil Jose and Emily Dickenson as my favorite writers.

Congratulations DLSU: UAAP Champion

It was a script writer’s dream match. De La Salle Green Archers defeated their perennial rival, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, in two straight matches. Enough has been written about the game so there is no analysis I need to add.

Through the years I am amazed and pleased at the depth of loyalty and commitment of so many Lasallians to their alma mater. Certainly there is pride in having attended the finest private teaching institution in the country. There is appreciation for its outstanding faculty and curriculum and its adaptability to a changing environment.  But there is something more that binds us  to De La Salle with ties that are strong and unique. But I am sure the other alumni feel the same way for their alma mater.

Sports creates a common sense of identity. That is why sports programs are so important. When you are on the stands cheering your team – for that moment you are emotionally united. That is why countries put such an important role in winning Olympic medals.

In a previous column, I said  the front page headlines failures and conflicts. The sports page chronicles triumph. To our friendly rivals, there will always be the next year. In the meantime allow us to savor historical  triumph.

Animo La Salle!


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