When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
I’ve been pretty insular lately, so I thought I’d take a break from writing medicare advantage articles to actually participate in a meme. It’s not Thursday, but if you don’t tell, I won’t either.
Literature, at least in my personal lexicon, does include Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy, as well as Melville, Fitzgerald, and Hawthorne, but it also includes the Bronte sisters, Austen, Woolf, Cather, Alcott, and George Sand. Not to mention Dickinson, Emerson, Whitman, Plath and Thoreau. I don’t believe something has to be part of a “great books” program in order to be literature, but there’s a reason the classics are, well, classic.
Staying power is one part of what distinguishes literature from, say, general fiction, but it’s also not the only factor. I believe literature is still being created. Consider the beauty of the language in Memoirs of a Geisha, for example, or the works of A. S. Byatt.
As to what I read for pleasure. I read a bit of everything. I like the classics. Curling up with Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre on a dismal weekend evening is just as restful as breezing through a couple of Star Trek novels, and the latter are often just as provocative as any of the works I studied in school.
As I write this, I’m in the middle of two books – one is the middle novel in a trilogy of Trekfiction, the other is the latest in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline, and I’m about to begin reading Pride and Prejudice.
As a writer, I learn from everything I read. Not just the stuff that we used to write essays about.