This weeks question: What books have you read that have been hyped as literary and, in your opinion, were not?
Personally I felt that A Visit from the Goon Squad was not literary and should have categorized as being a collection of short stories. I realize that I might get some flack for this choice, but from my perspective, the book had no continuity and no flow to the book. It seemed to me to be a bunch of stories that were loosely connected to each other.
How did you find your way to reading literary fiction and nonfiction?
I found myself reading more literary fiction by the fact that the school I attended in Grade 7 didn’t have much in the way of my favourite series, The Babysitters Club, available to sign out. I had been reading the series for the better part of two or three years and when I started at my school that fall there wasn’t much choice in the library to sign out at first. There wasn’t anything I was reading and then I signed out Jacob Have I Loved that September, I was able to change my reading habits drastically. Also I was unable to find anything in my local library at the time because at that time asking for a loan was quite difficult, without having to ask the library staff to see if they could get a book for me. As a result, I was forced read more difficult things. And by the time I went to high school in Grade 8, the transition wasn’t too hard and I was able to read more difficult things and was able to understand them.
What is one of your literary pet peeves? Is there something that writers do that really sets your teeth on edge? Be specific, and give examples if you can.
One thing that really sets me off is if the writing is bad and predictable. Nothing sets me off if the writing is bad and it seems as though there is no flow to the story. It feels like the author is trying to hard to get a story across or that the author is either really too interested in the subject and clearly doesn’t have a sense for what the reader may think. There is nothing like reading a book, or a section in a book, that feels tedious and unejoyable. Another thing I have a pet peeve with is when an author goes on and on and on, when the point has already made several pages ago. It feels like the author is trying to get a point across too much and at times makes me feel like not reading them again, even if they are a good writer. I want a book to envelope me and take me away to another place, not make me so distracted by how boring the book has gotten that I want to throttle the book and chuck it across the room. If an author can make their point in 50 less pages, then they should, not try and make some of the information filler, which often becomes redundant at some point.
This week’s question is:
What is your favorite poem and why?
I don’t know why, but I like the poem Remember by Christina Rossetti.
I suppose it had something to do with the fact that it talks about moving on and not to be sad about one’s passing. While the poem is morbid in nature, it does have a rather positive spin on death. Maybe it was due to the fact that I was getting out of William Butler Yeats phase and needed something a little more positive spin on things. It was also just a poem that appealed to me in general.
Another poem I particularly like is Dylan Thomas’ poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. I honestly don’t know why I like, but probably because its one of the first pieces of poetry that I read that wasn’t a typical romantic poem. It sort of goes against of how poetry should be and expresses how many people really feel about death and that we try to fight death as much as possible and deny its existence for ourselves.
This week’s question is:
What makes a contemporary novel a classic?
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why.
A very interesting question because it is very subjective question and is dependent on what readers view as being a modern classic. What one may think is a modern classic, another may think its not a modern classic. But what I think makes a contemporary novel a classic is that it is a work that has something of value to say that is able to draw attention to human problems and that condemn or applaud certain points of view. It also has effective language that is suitable to the message that the author is trying to convey and allows the reader to believe that what happened to the characters was inevitable and could not have been prevented. The story should also have a universal appeal; that is, the story should hold meaning or appeal to a wide variety of readers and have lasting interest to readers long beyond the initial appeal of the book.
One book that I think may qualify as a modern classic is Atonement by Ian McEwan. First of all, it draws attention to the issue of atonement and what is the nature of atonement. While the novel doesn’t say how one should go about atoning for wrongly accusing somebody of something as serious as rape, it does look at how a person may carry around the guilt of accusing a person for such an act and how it can affect future behaviour. The language in the book allows one to engage with the book in the sense that you can feel the guilt that Briony feels for her actions towards Robbie Turner and how that then affects her future behaviour and you also get the sense that Briony’s accusation would have happened and there would have been nothing to prevent it from happening. McEwan’s language is such that you feel the anguish that Briony feels for her accusation against Robbie, even though she knows the truth and refuses to acknowledge it. I suppose that it doesn’t hurt that the book takes place during war-time and the epic feel of Robbie’s journey to the shores of Dunkirk make it a novel that will appeal to people in the future.
While I am trying to say what I think why the book could be considered to be a modern classic, it doesn’t seem to want to get out and is basically just a pile of mush inside my head. I hope I made at least some sense and that you know what I was aiming at.
This week’s question is:
Is the such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it?
Yes there is such a thing as literary fiction. While I don’t read it a lot, I define it as a piece of prose in the non-fiction world. Usually it takes the form of a what would be called the non-fiction novel, or a piece of travel writing. It can also include biographies or memoirs or an essay. It is generally thought to be a very broad and quite vague in the range of books that it includes. To put it simply, it reports on actual people, places or events. One thing it is not is poetry. It is the latest memoir that has hit the bookseller list or the history book that looks at a particular person or a particular event or a particular person within the context of an event.
A good example of literary non-fiction would Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which he described as a non-fiction novel. It has the elements of what people would consider to be a novel: prose and a good story to tell, but its based in reality and on true events.
But above all, the thing that separates it from most other non-fiction, is the quality of the writing. It has a story that draws the reader in, much like a literary fiction book would have, and has a larger message to the book, rather than being a book simply of facts or a collection of literature.