Thursday, 3 April 2008

Booking through Thursday
This week's fabulous topic, which has provided a whole morning's chat in our kitchen:
  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
The very word, literature, conjures up an instant image of words on a page. Any words, any page; not just the classics, or venerable volumes gathering dust. It's anything written, from Harlequin romances to lofty esoterica; fiction and fact.
And there's bad literature and good literature — otherwise, what is the point of literary criticism?
I noticed in Australia that one of the chain bookstores has a section classified as 'literary fiction', separate from its 'popular fiction', a weirdly judgmental form of categorisation. And who decides what works go in what section?
Similarly judgmental is the primary definition of literature in our Australian national dictionary (the Macquarie, which I neither like nor admire): 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, romance, history, biography, essays, etc.; belles-lettres.
I disagree. Literature, to me, is as universal and inclusive as the word 'movies'. There are classics, blockbusters, overnight sensations, absolute dross and all manner of stuff that falls in between.
Some of it is fabulous and will forever shine light on the world. A lot of it has a less permanent glow. Some of it is dark, base matter that is best left in the dirt, though it may glitter a bit if you work at it.
But it's all literature.


bethany said...

I agree. great BBT~!

have a good Thrusday!

Chris said...

Yes, categories will put people off if they believe they won't like it. There's probably something for everybody in every category.

Maree said...

One of the bookshops here has the same categories; general fiction, then literary fiction. I still don't know what the difference is.

Fairlie said...

I don't like the cataegories of popular fiction and literary fiction. Does it suggest that literary fiction is unpopular? So many bookstores seem to use these categories for organising books though.

And what exactly is the cut-off between the two? Is there some kind of calculation of adjectives and adverbs per 100 words, or metaphors per page to classify works as either popular or literary?

M said...

It seems unpopular but I classify literature, in my mind,as writing which looks beyond just telling a story and into *how* the story is told. It's a classification clear in my mind but probably no-one elses.