Thursday, November 18, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: Nov 18-21

Welcome to this week's Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase!

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion. If your blog does not fit this description, it may be removed from the Linky List. 

How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure. YA literature may fit into this category, but if your blog focuses primarily on non-literary YA, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance, or chick lit, you may prefer to join the blog hop at Crazy-for-books that is open to book blogs of all genres.

Instructions for entering the Literary Blog Hop:

1. Grab the code for the Button.

Literary Blog Hop
2. Answer the following prompt on your blog:

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

(Suggestions for future prompts? Email them to us at

Our answer this week comes from Connie:

To this question, I reply with a resounding YES! Though much of the non-fiction book pool is self-help, how-to, text books, histories, formulaic biographies, recipe books, etc., I firmly believe in the literary merits of certain non-fiction works. 

Now for definitions. For the record, I HATE defining things, but I may as well take a crack at it. I would define literary non-fiction as works that present actual people and events in such a way that particular aesthetic emphasis is placed on the form, prose, themes, and characterization contained in it; in other words, it exists not merely to inform but to be beautiful; it educates not only in facts, but also in some aspect of the human condition.

Literary non-fiction comes in many different forms -- personal essays, memoir, autobiography, biography, even history and critical essay, such as Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. However, I can't think of anyone who has mastered the art of literary non-fiction better than Maya Angelou. Not only did she invent the "serial autobiography," but she has also mastered the form of the personal essay, not to even mention her poetry. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (read my review hereis the famous first book in her six-part autobiography, and without hesitation I would deem it literary. I hardly need mention her famous and inimitable aesthetic style. Moreover, she doesn't tell her somewhat tragic tale to gain sympathy or evoke a strong emotional response -- she writes it to examine her life and, in turn, life as a whole, dealing with the psychological effects of rape, Southern prejudice, and the empowering effect of knowledge. She also examines in great detail the intense and complicated familial relationships between her and her brother, her and her grandmother, her and her parents, and her brother and their parents. Needless to say, this is anything but a single-dimensional reading.

Now it's your turn -- do you believe in literary non-fiction? How would YOU define it? Examples? Happy hopping!