Last year, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. While you can’t argue with the legendary songwriter’s monumental achievements across more than 50 years of music—The Bard was given the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” per the voting committee—the award was still a shocker.
No other musician has ever won the Nobel Prize in its 116-year history, and the Swedish Academy’s choice to give it to Dylan immediately triggered a debate in literary circles about the artistic merits of song lyrics compared to poetry and novels. No wonder why The New York Times called the pick “perhaps the most radical choice in a history stretching back to 1901.”
Yet for all the immediate hullabaloo surrounding the award, the controversy that followed was even stranger: After the announcement, Dylan reportedly blew off phone calls and emails from the Swedish Academy for two weeks, leaving them to wonder whether or not he would even show up to claim his prize later that fall. Despite soon saying that the award was “amazing” and “incredible,” Dylan indeed bailed on the official banquet in Stockholm last December, instead sending Patti Smith to accept the Nobel in his place.
(Here is where I interject that not showing up to accept your friggin’ Nobel Prize is a bit of a dick move, but Dylan in his twilight epitomizes “IDGAF,” so we forgive him anyway. I’ve seen him play live a few times over the last few years, and I liken it to seeing the Dalai Lama in person: Obviously you’re glad you were there to witness him—because hey, holy shit, it’s the Dalai Lama!—but you can’t understand a single word that dude is saying.)
While the Swedish Academy eventually met with Dylan in a private ceremony earlier this year, official rules stipulated that he’d have to deliver a lecture within six months of receiving the award to collect his $900,000 prize. And because nobody is immune to the pull of $900,000 in straight cash, not even Bob Dylan, the 76-year-old posted his acceptance speech on Nobel’s website in June, with just five days to spare. It’s a remarkable, 4,000-word reflection on the literary influences that helped shape him.
And now the text—in which Dylan shouts out Buddy Holly, Homer, and Herman Melville, among other formative role models—is available as a 32-page book, courtesy of Simon & Schuster. While you can snag the standard edition for $16.99, the real prize is the special edition, which is signed, numbered, and limited to 100 copies. Sure, it’ll cost you $2,500, but hey, that kind of wisdom is priceless.