What the hell is literature?
How does a publisher or reader know the difference between modern writing and lit?
No one seems able to fully describe the difference, but to me writing lit is the height of word art. It’s when a writer makes you feel EVERYTHING, to your very core. It’s when a story is so real, so raw that it speaks without saying much.
Literature feels like a classic even when it’s new. It’s something that holds up. And unfortunately most good lit isn’t well known or even well received at first.
I write fantasy and children’s stories under another name and these books are a huge part of me and my love of books. No matter the genre, I will read it, I will write it.
Sci-Fi and Fantasy seem to be where the money comes from. People love escaping life to explore different worlds. Fantasy generally opens doors to the past or creates new ones in our own realm, and sci-fi has the promise of delivering a future that knows no bounds.
Literary fiction is the opposite. It does not want the reader to look away from the world. It magnifies it. In plain straight real world fiction, authors don’t have the luxury of running away from the rules.
It’s much harder to write and definitely more painful, but the beauty of it is that it can lay the issues that need to be addressed out in bold print. When reading a great work like The Grapes of Wrath, you feel the anger, the pain, the injustice of what capitalism did to thousands of people. Families were thrust into poverty and forced to work jobs where they picked fruit for nothing, had no rights, and were starving. People had food right in front of them and they were STARVING.
The voice of the people and their hatred of it was controversial at the time it was published. A lot of people were angry for how they were portrayed, but it’s because Steinbeck laid out the worst of the truth to make sure that everyone could see it.
That is what lit is all about. Finding a balance between allowing a story to organically shape while incorporating the struggles that many people often face.
This balance is very delicate. Nobody likes a preachy book where the message is shoved into your face and I read an infuriating article today that basically took some of the greatest novels and cynically tore them apart for having meaning. Goddess forbid a book say something that a certain group of people doesn’t like.
From what I’ve read, the best books are the ones that piss people off. Not in a Twilight/50 Shades kind of way. I mean the meaning. The message.
I’ve recently heard people saying, “Anything to get people reading,” a lot. Whatever happened to quality over quantity. Isn’t WHAT you read important too?
Variety is good. Some days I’ll take on a giant biography about Nicola Tesla and others I might want to read about modern dragons, but I never forget to read some lit. It’s like putting protein in a salad. You need strong muscles to be healthy and lit helps grow the brains most vital “muscles” the ability to see reality at it’s best and worst.