Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome all Literary Book Blog Hoppers-Week Three-What is Literary non-fiction?

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.

I wish to follow all literary book bloggers-if you follow me and I do not follow you back please leave me a comment and I will follow you-

Mel u

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. The term has been around and I'm always curious as to its meaning for today's writing. Perhaps Annie Dillard is a contemporary example?

Suko said...

Mel, A Room of One's Own is a perfect example of literary non-fiction.

Rebecca Chapman said...

Those are some very good examples.

I just thought about Margaret Atwood's book on debt - that is another good example of literary non-fiction

JoAnn said...

Great answer, Mel! I plan to read A Room of One's Own next year.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I never was able to make it through A Room of One's Own, but maybe one of these days. ;)

Love Midnight's Children--I really hope you're enjoying it.

Ash said...

Of course there is such a thing as literary nonfiction. It's what I spend most of my time reading!