During his long-awaited Nobel Prize lecture, Bob Dylan used some oddly familiar syntax to summarize Moby Dick, including an invented quote from the book. Upon further investigation, it appears one of the most famed songwriters of all time has now done what every millennial high school kid has done at some point or another: used SparkNotes.
He might have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for writer Ben Greenman. Greenman brought attention to the invented Moby Dick quote on his blog, which prompted a search to find its origin. Not long after Greenman’s blog post, Slate’s Andrea Pitzer wrote an article comparing quotes from the Dylan lecture and SparkNotes’ condensation of Moby Dick side-by-side, revealing their similar compositions.
The quote Dylan seemingly invented in his speech went as follows: “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are lead to bitterness.” Powerful stuff. Kudos to whoever wrote the SparkNotes version of Moby Dick, which contains a phrase that is pretty much identical: “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.” You’ll find numerous other examples in Slate’s piece—”Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site,” Pitzer notes in the post.
We also reported on Merriam-Webster’s spike in searches for the word “literature” (by a whopping 383 percent) after the speech was given, which is far more sad than Dylan needing a brush-up on Moby Dick.
Reps for Dylan did not immediately reply to Paste’s request for comment.