Friday, November 5, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: Nov 5-8

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.

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: 

Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it "literary."

Our answer this week comes from Christina:

Is there a hard and fast definition of Literary Fiction?  For me, it’s more of an “I know it when I see it” categorization.  When pressed, I’ll point to all those terms we studied in our high school English courses:  symbolism, imagery, themes, metaphor, irony.  Most classics have a pretty nice spread of literary devices.  Let’s take a look at a modern classic, a novel I respect immensely: Revolutionary Road.

Written in 1961 by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is the story of April and Frank Wheeler, a couple who struggle with marital strife and identity issues in 1950’s-era American Suburbia.  Yates writes the complexities of human relationships poignantly, artfully and always accessibly.  His unsentimental presentation of the characters’ intense emotions and conflicts rings so true as to be uncomfortable to read.  To be honest, when I read this book a year ago I was pretty shaken by it.  Frank and April are dynamic, tragic and nuanced characters and because I identified with them so closely, Revolutionary Road hit a little too close to home. 

That brings me to one of the reasons I consider this novel “literary”: continuing social relevance.  Important novels are socially relevant not only to the period in which they are written and/or take place, but for many years afterward.  Nearly 50 years after publication, Revolutionary Road’s characters, their angst, and the underlying themes still feel current.  At the same time, its setting is specific enough for it to effectively be classified as a period piece.  That’s good writing. 

Maybe it’s an elitist cop-out, but I also associate Literary Fiction closely with awards and reviews. Revolutionary Road was a National Book Award finalist and was listed among Time’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923-2005.  It received praise from Kurt Vonnegut, Tennessee Williams, and most literary critics.

Want a taste?  Here you go:

"The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy.  Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt silhouettes.  It was invincibly cheerful, a toyland of white and pastel houses whose bright, uncurtained windows winked blandly through a dappling of green and yellow leaves. . . . A man running down these streets in desperate grief was indecently out of place.  Except for the whisk of his shoes on the asphalt and the rush of his own breath, it was so quiet that he could hear the sounds of television in the dozing rooms behind the leaves - a blurred comedian's shout followed by dim, spastic waves of laughter and applause, and then the striking-up of a band."

[In a related story, Connie started a discussion about our perception of the literary cannon here.  What do you think?]

3. Put your link and the name of your blog in the Mr. Linky below. 

4. Visit the blogs in the list and leave a comment. Thanks for participating!