The Booker thing was a catalyst for me in a bizarre way. It's perceived as an accolade to be published as a 'literary' writer, but, actually, it's pompous and it's fake. Literary fiction is often nothing more than a genre in itself. I'd always read omnivorously and often thought much literary fiction is read by young men and women in their 20s, as substitutes for experience.
The mortality rate of literary friendships is high. Writers tend to be bad risks as friends ~ probably for much the same reasons that they are bad matrimonial risks. They expend the best parts of themselves in their work. Moreover, literary ambition has a way of turning into literary competition; if fame is the spur, envy may be a concomitant.
Matthew J. Bruccoli
The provincial intellectual is doomed to arguing at low level... there is still no Australian literary world, not in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. It is some consolation to realise that there is no literary world in Birmingham or Los Angeles either. I have heard there is one in Montreal, but I don't believe it. The literary world is in London and New York, the only cities big enough to sustain magazines which can afford to reject copy.
It remains a mystery to me why some of that [pulp] fiction should be judged inferior to the rafts and rafts of bad social [literary] fiction which continues to be treated by literary editors as if it were somehow superior, or at least worthier of our attention. The careerist literary imperialism of the Bloomsbury years did a lot to produce fiction's present unseemly polarities.
The moment in the account of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis is when they realize they're naked and try and cover themselves with fig leaves. That seemed to me a perfect allegory of what happened in the 20th century with regard to literary modernism. Literary modernism grew out of a sense that, "Oh my god! I'm telling a story! Oh, that can't be the case, because I'm a clever person. I'm a literary person! What am I going to do to distinguish myself?...a lot of modernism does seem to come out of a fear of being thought an ordinary storyteller.
I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be-basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful-nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups e la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and-I imagine this goes without saying-vampires.
Here the phenomenologist has nothing in common with the literary critic who, as has frequently been noted, judges a work that he could not create and, if we are to believe certain facile condemnations, would not want to create. A literary critic is a reader who is necessarily severe. By turning inside out like a glove an overworked complex that has become debased to the point of being part of the vocabulary of statesmen, we might say that the literary critic and the professor of rhetoric, who know-all and judge-all, readily go in for a simplex of superiority. As for me, being an addict of felicitous reading, I only read and re-read what I like, with a bit of reader's pride mixed in with much enthusiasm.
The nation as the horizon of an identity that you want to come into being as a fundamental absence of something that is compromised, something that needs to be rescued or made - these matters preoccupy the third world writer. It is seductive for a Marxist understanding of literary practice and production in the sense that it says that material culture determines literary output.
That the question of likability even exists in literary conversations is odd. It implies that we are engaging in a courtship. When characters are unlikable, they don't meet our mutable, varying standards. Certainly we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn't be dictated by whether we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.
In my profession more generally, it's not an exaggeration to say that masculinity is viewed as the root of all evil. If you were to take a literary theory course, you might think it would be about literature, but it's really not. It's about all the various forms of oppression on earth and how we can see them playing out in literary works. And behind all these forms of oppression is a guy.
When we consider the close connection between science and industrial development on the one hand, and between literary and aesthetic cultivation and an aristocratic social organization on the other, we get light on the opposition between technical scientific studies and refining literary studies. We have before us the need of overcoming this separation in education if society is to be truly democratic.
The true elitists in the literary world are the ones who have become annoyed by literary ambition in any form, who have converted the very meaning of ambition so totally that it now registers as an act of disdain, a hostility to the poor common reader, who should never be asked to do anything that might lead to a pulled muscle. (What a relief to be told there's no need to bother with a book that might seem thorny, or abstract, or unusual.) The elitists are the ones who become angry when it is suggested to them that a book with low sales might actually deserve a prize (...) and readers were assured that the low sales figures for some of the titles could only mean that the books had failed our culture's single meaningful literary test.
That literary-popular distinction is, in my view, vastly overstated. At the far poles there are clearly books that are purely commercial and purely literary, written for audiences that want to see the same thing enacted over and over and over again. But the middle is where most people read and most people write.
The problem with a lot of people who read only literary fiction is that they assume fantasy is just books about orcs and goblins and dragons and wizards and bullshit. And to be fair, a lot of fantasy is about that stuff. The problem with people in fantasy is they believe that literary fiction is just stories about a guy drinking tea and staring out the window at the rain while he thinks about his mother. And the truth is a lot of literary fiction is just that. Like, kind of pointless, angsty, emo, masturbatory bullshit. However, we should not be judged by our lowest common denominators. And also you should not fall prey to the fallacious thinking that literary fiction is literary and all other genres are genre. Literary fiction is a genre, and I will fight to the death anyone who denies this very self-evident truth. So, is there a lot of fantasy that is raw shit out there? Absolutely, absolutely, it's popcorn reading at best. But you can't deny that a lot of lit fic is also shit. 85% of everything in the world is shit. We judge by the best. And there is some truly excellent fantasy out there. For example, Midsummer Night's Dream; Hamlet with the ghost; Macbeth, ghosts and witches; I'm also fond of the Odyessey; Most of the Pentateuch in the Old Testament, Gargantua and Pantagruel. Honestly, fantasy existed before lit fic, and if you deny those roots you're pruning yourself so closely that you can't help but wither and die.
I owe all my originality, such as it is, to my determination not to be a literary man. Instead of belonging to a literary club I belong to a municipal council. Instead of drinking and discussing authors and reviews, I sit on committees with capable practical greengrocers and bootmakers... Keep away from books and from men who get their ideas from books, and your own books will always be fresh.
George Bernard Shaw
My claim is simply that the literary approach is one necessary way to read and interpret the Bible, an approach that has been unjustifiably neglected. Despite that neglect, the literary approach builds at every turn on what biblical scholars have done to recover the original, intended meaning of the biblical text.
Edmund Wilson was our greatest American literary critic because he was more than a literary critic: He was a fearless, even radical judge of the society he lived in. (See, for example, _A Piece of My Mind_; _The Cold War and the Income Tax_; the introduction to _Patriotic Gore_.) Our conventional critics cannot forgive him for those scandalous lapses in good taste.
I don't care about being a literary personality - that doesn't appeal to me, especially because the literary world doesn't appeal to me. I actually don't feel like I even belong in it. If this was high school, I would be sitting with the Goths, looking at everyone, being like, 'Whatever.'
What was needed was a literary theory which, while preserving the formalist bent of New Criticism, its dogged attention to literature as aesthetic object rather than social practice, would make something a good deal more systematic and 'scientific' out of all this. The answer arrived in 1957, in the shape of the Canadian Northrop Fryes mighty 'totalization' of all literary genres, Anatomy of Criticism .
We can be reluctant to recognize how much of our culture was literary, particularly now that so many of the institutional purveyors of literature happily have joined in proclaiming its death. A substantial number of Americans who believe they worship God actually worship three major literary characters: the Yahweh of the J Writer (earliest author of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers), the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark, and Allah of the Koran.
The ratio of authentic literature to trash in pornography may be somewhat lower than the ratio of novels of genuine literary meritto the entire volume of sub-literary fiction produced for mass taste. But it is probably not lower than, for instance, that of another somewhat shady sub-genre with a few first-rate books to its credit, science fiction.
Conventions of generality and mathematical elegance may be just as much barriers to the attainment and diffusion of knowledge as may contentment with particularity and literary vagueness... It may well be that the slovenly and literary borderland between economics and sociology will be the most fruitful building ground during the years to come and that mathematical economics will remain too flawless in its perfection to be very fruitful.
Kenneth E. Boulding
Only idiots or snobs ever really thought less of 'genre books' of course. There are stupid books and there are smart books. There are well-written books and badly written books. There are fun books and boring books. All of these distinctions are vastly more important than the distinction between the literary and the non-literary.
Every few seconds a new book sees the light of day. Most of them will just be a part of the hum that makes us hard of hearing. Even the book is becoming an instrument of forgetting. A truly literary work comes into being as its creator's cry of protest against the forgetting that looms over him, over his predecessors and his contemporaries alike, and over his time, and the language he speaks. A literary work is something that defies death.
Put your hand on your heart to keep it from flying off to the lovely magical literary island Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have created in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This novel is a delightful mix of fine writing, powerful emotions, glorious settings and amazing characters who deal with life in a way that will have readers falling in love on every single page.
Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print, literary studies have been slow to wake up to the importance of MSA (media-specific analysis). Literary criticism and theory are shot through with unrecognized assumptions specific to print. Only now, as the new medium of electronic textuality vibrantly asserts its presence, are these assumptions clearly coming into view.
N. Katherine Hayles
These self-appointed deacons in the Church of Latter-Day American Literature seem to regard generosity (of words) with suspicion, texture with dislike, and any broad literary stroke with outright hate. The result is a strange and arid literary climate where a meaningless little fingernail paring like Nicholson Baker's Vox becomes an object of fascinated debate and dissection, and a truly ambitious American novel like Matthew's Heart of the Country is all but ignored.
I'm a storyteller, I'm not a literary writer, and I don't want to be a literary writer. People say to me, "Oh, when are you going to write something different?" What? I don't want to write anything different. I'm writing relationships between people, all different colors, all different sizes, all different sexual orientations, and that's what I want to do.
I am fully conscious that, not being a literary man , certain presumptuous persons will think that they may reasonably blame me; alleging that I am not a man of letters. Foolish folks! do they not know that I might retort as Marius did to the Roman Patricians by saying: That they, who deck themselves out in the labours of others will not allow me my own. They will say that I, having no literary skill, cannot properly express that which I desire to treat of, but they do not know that my subjects are to be dealt with by experience rather than by words; and experience has been the mistress of those who wrote well. And so, as mistress, I will cite her in all cases.
Leonardo da Vinci
All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that's my job...And I'm prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I've read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.
C. S. Lewis
My favorite method of encryption is chunking revolutionary documents inside a mess of JPEG or MP3 code and emailing it off as an "image" or a "song." But besides functionality, code also possesses literary value. If we frame that code and read it through the lens of literary criticism, we will find that the past hundred years of modernist and postmodernist writing have demonstrated the artistic value of similar seemingly arbitrary arrangements of letters.
A word is used "correctly" when the average hearer will be affected by it in the way intended. This is a psychological, not a literary, definition of "correctness". The literary definition would substitute, for the average hearer, a person of high education living a long time ago; the purpose of this definition is to make it difficult to speak or write correctly.
The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We're increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism.
I think that the thematic, formal history of the literary form ultimately harkens back to a different political system. That is to say, a feudal order: the aristocratic dispensation of leisure time, the refinements of the self. With the shift from feudal aristocracy to democracy there has been a long process of evolution. I think we're in the throes of a kind of steep, logarithmic shift, and I think that literary forms are losing their capacity to connect people to issues, to the experiences that feel most meaningful to them.
To vest a few fallible men - prosecutors, judges, jurors - with vast powers of literary or artistic censorship, to convert them into what J.S. Mill called the "moral police" is to make them despotic arbiters of literary products... If one day they ban mediocre books as obscene, another day they may do otherwise to a work of a genius. Originality, not too plentiful, should be cherished, not stifled. An author's imagination may be cramped if he must write with an eye on prosecutors or juries...
Literary men now routinely tell their readers about their divorces. One literary man who reviews books wrote, in reviewing a study of Ruskin, that he had never read a book by Ruskin but that the study confirmed him in his belief that he didn't want to read a book by Ruskin. This man very often writes about his family life.
George W. S. Trow
First one gets works of art, then criticism of them, then criticism of the criticism, and, finally, a book on The Literary Situation , a book which tells you all about writers, critics, publishing, paperbacked books, the tendencies of the (literary) time, what sells and how much, what writers wear and drink and want, what their wives wear and drink and want, and so on.
Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving. ... The postmodern founders' patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years.
David Foster Wallace
Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving. [.] The postmodern founders' patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years.
David Foster Wallace
Ultimately, the definition of both the wonder tale and the fairy tale, which derives from it, depends on the manner in which a narrator/author arranges known functions of a tale aesthetically and ideologically to induce wonder and then transmits the tale as a whole according to customary usage of a society in a given historical period. The first stage for the literary fairy tale involved a kind of class and perhaps even gender appropriation. The voices of the nonliterate tellers were submerged, and since women in most cases were not allowed to be scribes, the tales were scripted according to male dictates or fantasies, even though they may have been told by women. Put crudely, it could be said that the literary appropriation of the oral wonder tales served the hegemonic interests of males within the upper classes of particular communities and societies, and to a great extent this is true. However, such a statement must be qualified, for the writing down of the tales also preserved a great deal of the value system of those deprived of power. And the more the literary fairy tale was cultivated and developed, the more it became individualized and varied by intellectuals and artists, who often sympathized with those society marginalized or were marginalized themselves. The literary fairy tale allowed for new possibilities of subversion in the written word and in print, and therefore it was always looked upon with misgivings by the governing authorities in the civilization process.
The worst feature of the Common Core is its anti-humanistic, utilitarian approach to education. It mistakes what a child is and what a human being is for. That is why it has no use for poetry, and why it boils the study of literature down to the scrambling up of some marketable "skill" [... ] you don't read good books to learn about what literary artists do... you learn about literary art so that you can read more good books and learn more from them. It is as if Thomas Gradgrind had gotten hold of the humanities and turned them into factory robotics.
Of all public figures and benefactors of mankind, no one is loved by history more than the literary patron. Napoleon was just a general of forgotten battles compared with the queen who paid for Shakespeare's meals and beer in the tavern. The statesman who in his time freed the slaves, even he has a few enemies in posterity, whereas the literary patron has none. We thank Gaius Maecenas for the nobility of soul we attribute to Virgil; but he isn't blamed for the selfishness and egocentricity that the poet possessed. The patron creates 'literature through altruism, ' something not even the greatest genius can do with a pen.
Everybody should read fiction... I don't think serious fiction is written for a few people. I think we live in a stupid culture that won't educate its people to read these things. It would be a much more interesting place if it would. And it's not just that mechanics and plumbers don't read literary fiction, it's that doctors and lawyers don't read literary fiction. It has nothing to do with class, it has to do with an anti-intellectual culture that doesn't trust art.
There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book. In adult literary fiction, stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness... The present-day would-be George Eliots take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. They're embarrassed by them. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would. Sometimes they do. We need stories so much that we're even willing to read bad books to get them, if the good books won't supply them. We all need stories, but children are more frank about it.
Today the crime novelist has one advantage denied to writers of 'straight' or 'literary' novels. Unlike them he can range over all levels of society, for crime can easily breach the barriers that exist in our stratified society. Because of these barriers the modern literary novel, unlike its 19th-century predecessors, is often confined to the horizontal, dealing only with one class. But crime runs through society from top to bottom, and so the crime novelist can present a fuller picture of the way we live now.
The new "ambiguity" means, in a way adjudged favorable to literary, poetic, intellectually and psychologically well-devised and praiseworthily executed linguistic performance, uncertainty of meaning, or difficulty for the interpreter in identifying just what the meaning in question is: it means the old meanings of ambiguity with a difference. It means uncertainty of meaning (of a word or combination of words) purposefully incorporated in a literary composition for the attainment of the utmost possible variety of meaning-play compressible within the verbal limits of the composition.
Fantastic literature has been especially prominent in times of unrest, when the older values have been overthrown to make way for the new; it has often accompanied or predicted change, and served to shake up rational Complacency, challenging reason and reminding man of his darker nature. Its popularity has had its ups and downs, and it has always been the preserve of a small literary minority. As a natural challenger of classical values, it is rarely part of a culture's literary mainstream, expressing the spirit of the age; but it is an important dissenting voice, a reminder of the vast mysteries of existence, sometimes truly metaphysical in scope, but more often merely riddling.
There is a vast expanse of time before the Norman Conquest in 1066, from which fragments of literary texts remain, although these fragments make quite a substantial body of work. If we consider that the same expanse of time has passed between Shakespeare's time and now as passed between the earliest extant text and 1066, we can begin to imagine just how much literary expression there must have been. But these centuries remain largely dark to us, apart from a few illuminating flashes and fragments, since almost all of it was never written down, and since most of what was preserved in writing was destroyed later, particularly during the 1530s.
As has already been noted, fantastic literature developed at precisely the moment when genuine belief in the supernatural was on the wane, and when the sources provided by folklore could safely be used as literary material. It is almost a necessity, for the writer as well as for the reader of fantastic literature, that he or she should not believe in the literal truth of the beings and objects described, although the preferred mode of literary expression is a naive realism. Authors of fantastic literature are, with a few exceptions, not out to convert, but to set down a narrative story endowed with the consistency and conviction of inner reality only during the time of the reading: a game, sometimes a highly serious game, with anxiety and fright, horror and terror.
Johnson's later life, from 1763, is among the best documented of all literary lives. James Boswell gave himself the enormous task, after Johnson's death in 1784, of producing what is now held to be a model of biography; rich in detail and anecdote, a complete picture of the man and his times, traced over a period of more than twenty years. Boswell's Life of Johnson, published in 1791, carries on Johnson's own contribution to the growing art of biography, and consolidates Johnson's position as a major literary figure, who, although a poet and a novelist, is remembered more for his academic and critical achievement than for his creative writings.
Sometimes I think that creativity is a matter of seeing, or stumbling over, unobvious similarities between things-like composing a fresh metaphor, but on a more complex scale. One night in Hiroshima it occurred to me that the moon behind a certain cloud formation looked very like a painkiller dissolving in a glass of water. I didn't work toward that simile, it was simply there: I was mugged, as it were, by the similarity between these two very different things. Literary composition can be a similar process. The writer's real world and the writer's fictional world are compared, and these comparisons turned into text. But other times literary composition can be a plain old slog, and nothing to do with zones or inspiration. It's world making and the peopling of those worlds, complete with time lines and heartache.
Creators of literary fairy tales from the 17th-century onward include writers whose works are still widely read today: Charles Perrault (17th-century France), Hans Christian Andersen (19th-century Denmark), George Macdonald and Oscar Wilde (19th-century England). The Brothers Grimm (19th-century Germany) blurred the line between oral and literary tales by presenting their German "household tales" as though they came straight from the mouths of peasants, though in fact they revised these stories to better reflect their own Protestant ethics. It is interesting to note that these canonized writers are all men, since this is a reversal from the oral storytelling tradition, historically dominated by women. Indeed, Straparola, Basile, Perrault, and even the Brothers Grimm made no secret of the fact that their source material came largely or entirely from women storytellers. Yet we are left with the impression that women dropped out of the history of fairy tales once they became a literary form, existing only in the background as an anonymous old peasant called Mother Goose.
I repeat here what you will find in my first chapter, that the only thing that signifies to you in a book is what it means to you, and if your opinion is at variance with that of everyone else in the world it is of no consequence. Your opinion is valid for you. In matters of art people, especially, I think, in America, are apt to accept willingly from professors and critics a tyranny which in matters of government they would rebel against. But in these questions there is no right and wrong. The relation between the reader and his book is as free and intimate as that between the mystic and his God. Of all forms of snobbishness the literary is perhaps the most detestable, and there is no excuse for the fool who despises his fellow-man because he does not share his opinion of the value of a certain book. Pretence in literary appreciation is odious, and no one should be ashamed if a book that the best critics think highly of means nothing to him. On the other hand it is better not to speak ill of such books if you have not read them.
W. Somerset Maugham
Mr Bott sits down and gestures gracefully to the board. "As you are clearly both fascinated by this text, would you like to explain the significance of Laertes in Hamlet?" He looks at Alexa. "Please go first, Miss Roberts." "Well... " Alexa says hesitantly. "He's Ophelia's brother, right?" "I didn't ask for his family tree, Alexa. I want to know his literary significance as a fictional character." Alexa looks uncomfortable. "Well then, his literary significance is in being Ophelia's brother, isn't it? So she has someone to hang out with." "How very kind of Shakespeare to give fictional Ophelia a fictional playmate so that she doesn't get fictionally bored. Your analytical skills astound me, Alexa. Perhaps I should send you to Set Seven with Mrs White and you can spend the rest of the lesson studying Thomas the Tank Engine. I believe he has lots of buddies too.