By Lonnie Cruse
There is usually an ongoing discussion (or war of words) by readers on book discussion lists as to what constitutes literature or makes a book "literary. " Works by Jane Austin, and, of course, our literary "father," E. A. Poe, are generally considered to be great writers of literature. But what about modern day books? With so many types of books, mystery, romance, western, general fiction, etc, not to mention all the sub-genres (just in mystery there is hard boiled, cozy, etc, and cozy is broken down into lots of sub-sub categories like gardening, sewing, cooking, sigh) what constitutes literature? And who writes it?
Frankly I don't have a clue. Do you? But I would think it would be books that could stand the test of time. Books so well written that they stay with us for a very long time, shelved where we can behold them with our eyes as we dust, or remember the stories in our minds.
Shirley Jackson is one of those authors for me. Dead and buried in the mid-Sixties, Jackson's short story, THE LOTTERY is still taught in colleges across the country as an example of how it's done. Done well. I read her book, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, twice just to be sure I didn't miss anything. Wow.
Jackson "apparently" had mental and/or emotional problems and I sometimes wonder if those supposed problems allowed her to write as bravely as she did, ALWAYS surprising me at the end, no matter how well I thought I'd come to know her style, because she seemed to have no self-imposed barriers. No, she didn't write graphic sex, violence, or language. I mean barriers to what happened to her characters or where she took them . . . and took the reader.
So, what's your idea of great literature? What constitutes literary for you? For me it's a book that is still loved and read whether it's decades or centuries after it was first written. Or months.
Modern day? ANY author whose story sticks with me after I've read the words THE END, put the book away, and I find myself thinking about the story and the characters while I make the bed or stir supper. Wondering if there will be another in the series, and where the characters will go from there. Wondering if I can wait that long or if I should go camp on the author's door step until she/he passes me a print-out through the door to read. A REAL advance reader's copy. Hmmm, wonder if Barbara D'Amato is at home today? Bill Crider? Donna Andrews? Just three of my all-time faves. Tony Hillerman? Nah, he'd likely call the Tribal Police on me. Hmmm. Anne Perry lives in England and I don't have enough frequent flyer miles. Newbie Tasha Alexander is just south of me in Nashville.
'Scuse me, I've gotta go pack. Thanks for stopping by. Think I'll just peek out my living room window and see if anyone is sitting on MY front porch.