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?
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.