Friday, November 19, 2010

Nice to Meet You, Literary Blog Hop- Charmed, I'm sure!

Literary Blog Hop
Welcome, lovers of literature, to my first adventure in Literary Blog Hopping.  I've been remiss in my blogging of late-I blame those pesky little things called working and going to school.  Darn that need to make money anyway!  But I digress...The Literary Book Blog is hosted by the The Blue Bookcase, and is defined as...
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. 
If you're interested in my cogitations about whether I am "literary" enough for this hop, you can find them in my post Does It Matter What We Read?
 
This week's question is:
Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?
While I admittedly don't read a ton of non-fiction, I can say with certainty that the answer is yes, there can be literary non-fiction.  If you consider the many definitions of literature, they often contain a reference to the aesthetic or structural nature of the work.  Non-fiction writing can be transcendently beautiful, incredibly heartbreaking, lyrical and gritty-the best non-fiction doesn't just inform you about the chosen topic, but about life and love and pain and joy and sorrow.

There are a few examples I can think of for the subcategory of literary non-fiction.  Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, considered by many to be the first in the true crime genre, comes to mind.  The writing is spare, the mood evocative-sounds literary to me.  There's also Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, both of whom wrote about their lives in a way that transcends mere navel gazing and speaks volumes to larger truths. 

An author not as well known but whose books I believe fit in this category is Rick Bragg.  His memoir of his mother, All Over But the Shoutin', is one of the best non-fiction books I've read (which is a much smaller number than my fiction total).  It is a loving, almost reverent look at his childhood with his mother at the center.  Growing up poor in rural Alabama, Bragg took his experiences and used them as a journalist to bring humanity to stories on issues such as urban poverty.  This line from the book, describing the small town where he grew up, is an excellent example of why he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996: 
"This is a place where grandmothers hold babies on their laps under the stars and whisper in their ears that the lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven. This is a place where the song 'Jesus Loves Me' has rocked generations to sleep, and heaven is not a concept, but a destination."

10 comments:

  1. What a delightful layout you have here! Great quote ... I love memoirs that capture the personality of a small town or place like that. Now I'm going to explore your blog a bit.
    Thanks so much for participating in our Hop!

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  2. I've read some great reviews of Rick Bragg's book and am adding to my wishlist. What a beautiful quote you selected!

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  3. This book sounds very worthwhile. Nice post. I also agree with your post on Does what we read matter. There are things I have to read to learn the material. There are books I want to read to soak in the beauty of the writing- but I can't read them in half hour chunks at the end of a normal stressful work day. And then, there are books that are good reads that relax me. They all have different merit. I'm pleased to hear an educator's view on it since my kids are readers!

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  4. In Cold Blood is a terrific example of literary nonfiction. In fact, that was Capote's intention--to write about true-life events in novel style.

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  5. Good answer and a good example. I've seen this book, but didn't know about it. That quote appeals to me.

    Rose City Reader

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  6. Of course. Rick Bragg's story.

    Here's my post on literary nonfiction. I'd love to hear what you think.

    And if you have read any wonderful literary books
    published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
    for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
    include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.
    Nominations close December 15.

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  7. The only criteria applicable to books is, is it enjoyable, does it remove you from the room you are in, whether it's a better world, or not that is between you & the book.
    “It’s less true of other art forms, but for some reason with writers in particular we want to know where to stick them, where to shelve them……”. – Michael Chabon.

    “I’m fanatically reluctant to say that fiction ought to do one thing rather than another. I do know what I want from fiction. I want it to exhilarate me, to unbind my eyes, to murder & resurrect me, to harm me in some fruitful way. But that said, yes, the journey into intense feeling & the conquest of unknown emotional territory is something fiction can make possible.” – Steven Millhauser


    Although both these comments were used in a collection of Sci-fi stories, I think their meaning also works within the parameters discussed here.
    Thanks enjoyed your write up.
    Parrish

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  8. Thanks for sharing those examples! I think when I get further into my reading list, I'll come to really value literary non-fiction. It might even be preferable to fiction. I'll know soon. :-)

    This lit hop is awesome -- so informative!

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  9. First I gotta say this. I loved your blog layout!

    And I gotta check the examples you mentioned here.
    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

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  10. Interesting selection and a beautiful quote. Nice to visit your blog!

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