Perhaps it was just a matter of time.
Bob Dylan makes a major artistic statement, and eagle-eyed students of his work soon find evidence that he had “borrowed” — or, to be less kind, plagiarized — significant parts of it.
It has come up in song lyrics and in passages from Dylan’s memoir, “Chronicles: Volume One.” The sources have included the work of a Japanese doctor and a Confederate poet, and fed an unending debate about whether Dylan is a Rauschenberg-esque master of pastiche or simply a thief. The stakes for Dylan’s reputation are even higher now that he has been elevated to a Nobel laureate.
The latest allegation, in fact, is related to Dylan’s Nobel lecture, which he delivered in a recording last week as a requirement of accepting last year’s Nobel Prize in literature. In the speech, Dylan recounted how he was influenced by Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Homer’s “The Odyssey” — the kinds of well-worn classics that most students encounter in school, and may consult a study guide to help understand.
A Slate article on Tuesday accused Dylan of doing what schoolchildren get scolded for every day: cribbing lines from that study guide and passing it off as his own work. The author, Andrea Pitzer, combed through Dylan’s 4,000-word speech and, in the case of his 78 sentences of commentary on “Moby-Dick,” found at least 20 examples in which phrases from his text closely resemble lines in a SparkNotes online guide to the novel.
For astute Dylan fans, such accusations are nothing new.
Some lyrics on his 2001 album “’Love and Theft’” closely resemble lines from “Confessions of a Yakuza,” a 1991 book by Dr. Junichi Saga about the life of a Japanese gangster. In 2006, lyrics on Dylan’s album “Modern Times” were found to have been lifted from works by Henry Timrod, an obscure 19th-century writer who has been called the poet laureate of the Confederacy.
A spokesman for Dylan had no comment on Wednesday. (ThNew York Times)