Friday, April 04, 2008


This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

  • 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?

My initial reaction is definitely to think of the classics like Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte etc. Maybe my definition of literature would be books that I know that I should day! I do know that I really should read Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, War and Peace and all of those other classics, and I will...eventually.

In addition to those older books that have stood the test of time though, there is also the new literature that comes out. In this case I am thinking of authors such as Ian McEwan, Alan Hollinghurst. I have read some of them (for example the two mentioned) with mixed results. McEwan I don't mind. Hollinghurst writes beautifully but also with a pretentiousness that means that you can't read in a noisy place, you have to be able to concentrate word for word to be sure that you grasp the meaning.

Maybe another way that I define literature is by some of the prize lists - if a book makes the Orange Prize list I would expect it to be completely readable and absorbing but accessible. If however the book makes the Booker Prize lists then I would expect it to be somewhat less accessible to a normal reader (i.e me), more challenging but that would also be part of the reason why I would want to read it.

BTW, I just realised I didn't post last weeks BTT question - I'll put it up later today!


  1. I'm not familiar enough with those two prizes. I'm curious why you think they're so different -- one accessible, one not.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. It's interesting what you said about the different between the two prizes. I have been reading a few Booker Prize winners lately and have really enjoyed them, but I think I can see what you mean. I will have to see if I have read any Orange Prize winners or not.

  3. When I think literature, I think James Joyce and William Faulkner. I enjoy HAVING to read literature, but I don't always read what I consider literature for pleasure. It depends upon why I'm reading at the time.

  4. To me, literature is a dry read. I think of "The Grapes of Wrath" and it was as dry as the dustbowl the Okies were traveling through. Literature is something that PHDs decide, not the general public. If you need a Cliff notes to read the book and get everything out of it you are supposed to, then it is literature! I don't think I have read any literature since college or high school, though. Too bad steamy regency romances weren't required reading back then!