I thought there was something weird about Bob Dylan's Nobel lecture the first time I listened to it, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It was Ben Greenman who first noticed that Dylan quoted a line that doesn't actually appear in the book, but Greenman had a charitable take on the mistake:
It appears, from all available evidence, that Dylan invented the quote and inserted it into his reading of Moby-Dick. Was it on purpose? Was it the result of a faulty memory? Was it an egg, left in the lawn to be discovered in case it’s Eastertime too? Answering these questions would be drilling into the American Sphinx... The mystery of it makes a wonderful lecture even more wonderful.
Slate's Andrea Pitzer has figured it out: the sentence in question comes from the SparkNotes for Moby Dick. And not just that sentence! Nineteen other passages of the lecture appear to have been lifted from SparkNotes as well.
Here is Pitzer on the passage that started it all, the one that Greenman noticed:
In Dylan’s recounting, a “Quaker pacifist priest” tells Flask, the third mate, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness”... No such line appears anywhere in Herman Melville’s novel. However, SparkNotes’ character list describes the preacher using similar phrasing, as “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.”
She also notes that the word "pacifist" doesn't appear in the book, though it does appear in an adjacent character description in SparkNotes. Here's an infographic of 20 incidents of phrasing from the lecture that Pitzer found closely or exactly matched SparkNotes. Slate reached out to Dylan and his record label for comment, and did not hear back.
Salon's follow-up headline today: "Bob Dylan, music’s finest troll, may have plagiarized his Nobel speech."