In the Critics this week

Scorsese's latest, Hattersley v. Rawnsley, and radical feminism.

This week, we have Ryan Gilbey's verdict on the new Martin Scorsese film, Shutter Island. D J Taylor takes the former NME writer Nick Kent's memoir of the 1970s as his cue to survey the "golden age" of British rock journalism, while Roy Hattersley is unimpressed by Andrew Rawnsley's New Labour exposé The End of the Party.

"Of all the unpleasant things you might discover," while reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, writes Alyssa McDonald, "the worst is your own indifference to animal suffering." The critic Terry Eagleton talks to the NS about the "supremacist" outlook of Martin Amis, and the new mood of student radicalism in Britain's universities. George Walden salute a journalist's account of the Caucasus, Jonathan Beckman grapples with a history of England's "snooty, distrustful, exclusionary" tradition of anti-Semitism, and the philosopher Julian Baggini explores 36 Arguments for the Existence of God.

Plus, we have the usual columns from our award-winning critics: Fisun Guner encounters an unsettling Finnish video artist, Jonathan Derbyshire visits the renovated People's History Museum in Manchester, Rachel Cooke writes on radical feminists, Antonia Quirke listens to Mariella Frostrup, and Will Self meditates on Nando's.

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How the radio stations reacted to Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize

For its part, Radio 1 was too absorbed by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards to mention the proclamation on Newsbeat.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature inspired a bewildering gamut of radio responses. At first, proof of his talent was abundantly forthcoming, Andy Kershaw yelling down the line for World at One from a motorway services on the M6 within ­moments of the announcement. (“I can’t understand why they didn’t give this to him 41 years ago!”)

However, a full six days after Talk Radio excitedly reported the event on its home page (“a pivotal part of the cultural revolution of the 1960s”), the online feature has yet to attract a single comment. That’s zero talk. For its part, Radio 1 was too absorbed by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards to mention the proclamation on Newsbeat, though Heart FM firmly quoted the chair of the English faculty at Oxford (“The Tennyson of our time”), and pencil-suckingly dissected lyrics (“Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’/ Up the road . . .”).

Is it poetry? Is it literature? You could tell it was doing everybody’s head in. But when, on Radio 4’s Front Row, Billy Bragg praised Dylan for “bringing a literary and poetic thread into pop music”, the argument sounded terribly old.

The whole battle about Dylan being as great a poet as Tennyson is a hangover from an ancient battle, from a time when it actually had to be pointed out that this pop-music stuff can be brilliant and clever. A time when boring people battled for respect and prestige for an obvious genius. Over on Radio 2, Mark Goodier cheerfully played “Tangled Up in Blue” (“Major, major prize for Bob today. If that isn’t a decent excuse to play a song, I don’t know what is”). But by Sunday, on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House, the gloves were off and guests were declaring that they couldn’t stand Dylan’s voice (cliché, pathetic).

By Monday Simon Armitage was saying that Dylan’s lyrics had no more sophistication than something composed by a child. Is it poetry? Is it literature? Well, it kind of is. But it kind of isn’t. And it doesn’t matter very much, except to the likes of Dylan – and only a long, long time ago. Now he hardly requires the approbation. The Nobel Committee has given the prize to the one writer in the world who doesn’t need it. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood