M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome all Literary Book Blog Hoppers-week two

The Blue Book Case last week started an event called "The Literary Book Blog Hop".      Most book blogs seems to focus on Young Adult books, paranormal books and what is commonly called "chic lit".     There are still a lot of bloggers who read mostly classics and what is commonly called "literary fiction".  

Every week the Literary Book Blog asks that participants answer a question-here is the question for this week

This week's question is:
Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

My answer is for sure yes there is literary non-fiction.   It is much easier for me  to give examples of literary non-fiction than to define it.   For a while now I have been reading Ford Madox Ford's March of Literature (1938).    In that work Ford says very nearly the  best English prose ever written is in 
Edward Gibbon's  Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   I would personally for sure include Ford's own work as a perfect example of literary non-fiction.   My previous post was on a high canon work of Virginia Woolf, A Room of Own's Own.   I reflected a bit on what do these three very different works have in common that makes them literary non-fiction.    In these three cases the authors assume a very well read reader who relished a well wrought sentence.   There is also often found in this style of prose sentences which delay the completion of a thought through the use of subordinate clauses, some times several.   This quote from Edward Gibbon's memoir is a good example of classical English literary prose:

It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.

There is also reversal in the normal placement of the verb:

"His far more pleasant garden God ordained"-Milton-Literary Prose

"God ordained his most pleasant garden"-non literary prose.

   Part of the purpose of these  techniques is to slow down the thought processes of the reader, in my opinion.    It also comes from the simple veneration  of  of a well turned phrase.    I am currently reading a 25th anniversary edition of Salmon Rusdie's Midnight's Children  for which Rusdie wrote a new introduction which I classify as literary non-fiction (this is just to show it is not entirely a thing of the past.)

I think the Literary Book Blog Hop is a great idea.   I thank Connie, Ingrid, and Christina for starting it-I think it will be a great success.

Mel u


Amy said...

That's a great reworking of the question. The book I posted about was not enhanced by its difficulty, but on the other hand, its difficulty is rooted in my lack of background understanding. It may not be difficult at all once I learn more about the subject.

Greg Zimmerman said...

My answer is the same as yours - though, it sounds like we had vastly different reactions in terms of the enjoyment derived. ;) I have only read GR once, though - so I'll have to trust you when you say you can always find new pleasures.


Jenny said...

I have only read Gravity's Rainbow once, but I definitely think you'd get something different out of it each time. So many layers, and I agree that it is just a great book. I think after I've enjoyed one so much, I don't consider it difficult any longer!

mywordlyobsessions said...

Thomas Pychon is DEFINITELY literary. Thanks so much for posting about him. I haven't read Gravity's Rainbow but it's one of those on my list, (damn that list!)

I read Crying of Lot 49 back in the day and nearly had a aneurism. There is just so much going on in his work that it blows my head away. Brilliant post! And yes, I am so loving this literary blog hop Mel. Gives us a chance to talk about the things that REALLY matter.

Teacher/Learner said...

Definitely agree with your definition & "anti-definition" of literary fiction. J.K. Rowling may very well qualify. It's debatable. Thanks for stopping by my blog & good luck with the tail end of your Plans For 2010. I like the goals you set & hope to do similar ones myself next year :)

readerbuzz said...

Love how you adjusted the question to make it personally more interesting.

I'm not sure that I've read a very challenging text. I feel pretty sure I'd need to read a very challenging text with a teacher or a group who was good at guiding me through the difficult parts.

JoAnn said...

I tried Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, but didn't get very far...

gautami tripathy said...

I have read a lot of classics in my school and college years. And some still remain my favorites. However, there are a few I could never get into..

Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

Amanda said...

Yeah, I've heard Pynchon is very difficult to get through. I'm completely scared of him.

parrish lantern said...

That book is sat beside me, as next on my reading list, but have read V & the crying of lot 49, so I feel that i,ve spent enough time in the gym & am ready.

Roof Beam Reader said...

So, I recently purchased Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest, and both titles are popping up a lot on the "most difficult" lists. Discouraging, or impetus to read them? We shall see.

New follower, by the way. Hello!

kinnareads said...

Isn't the Literary Hop wonderful? All these responses to renew my interest in difficult books. Well, I'm sold. I will try GR. Looking forward to the challenge.

bibliophiliac said...

Mel, I love your response to this question--how did the difficulty contribute to the power of the book? Gravity's Rainbow has not yet tempted me, but I agree with what you say about difficulty and levels of meaning. You have a fantastic blog--so many great posts!

Kelly said...

This book sounds great! I've never even heard of it, but your description has me interested :)

gautami tripathy said...

I gotta read this!

Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

IngridLola said...

Hey mel u! Thanks for your thoughts. I need to get to A Room of One's Own one of these days.

mywordlyobsessions said...

Thanks for that great example from Milton. I've always enjoyed how he does that - definitely makes me stop and pay attention to what I'm reading.

I have only just been intrduced to Ford Madox Ford, so I look forward to reading more of his works.

Trisha said...

I'm like you, writing my response required examples more so than definitions. GR is on my to read soon list (but then again it's been on there for years).

parrish lantern said...

I tried, Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, when I was younger & bulletproof, never finished it & found out I wan't bulletproof.

bibliophiliac said...

Mel, How funny that we both thought of Gibbon--what are the chances of that?

readerbuzz said...

I'm just zipping around the blogosphere, reminding bloggers...If you have read any wonderful literary books
published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.

I'm especially interested in having some great nominees for nonfiction!

Elizabeth said...

I have a few books to nominate...will head on over there, Reader Buzz.