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‘You are a stupid prophet!’ – Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

In a 9th-century joke, a man appears before the Caliph and claims to be a prophet. The Caliph says, “By Allah, you are a stupid prophet!” The man replies, “That is why I was sent to people like you.”

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan. 

“I hope Peter, Paul and Mary win it next year,” groused the late Philip Roth when Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016. In this matter (and only this) I sympathize with Roth.

Dylan walked a fine line between parody and popularity, deftly positioning himself within every musical fad, sometimes holding up a mirror to Americans and sometimes preening before the mirror himself. He is best in his self-deprecating moments, when he presents himself as a stupid prophet sent to the sort of people who deserve him. Otherwise I find him insufferable.