Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lit-Ra-Chur




This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

  • 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 do think of the classics when someone mentions "literature", but I also think of contemporary literature--what my husband calls "serious fiction". I've heard literature defined as writings worthy of being remembered, and that strikes a chord with me. I guess I think of literature that way, as writing I have remembered, no matter what time frame it comes from. It may have been published last month, and I might consider it literature.

I read "literature" for pleasure all the time. I try to include classics in my reading, but I consider almost every novel and short story I read for pleasure to be literature. Occasionally I read what I consider "junky" fiction that I don't put in the "literature" category, however loose that category might be for me. By the way, my husband calls that junky fiction "airplane books".

15 comments:

Jaimie said...

Airplane books is a good way to put them. I like to read pretty much everything, even the old classics though I do have my likes and dislikes.
Happy BTT!

LisaMM said...

Airplane books, I like that. I think of those kinds of books as the fast food of literature: not that good for you but plentiful, and sometimes just exactly what you want.

Sya said...

I would not equate junky fiction with airplane books. Even though there are a fair number of passengers toting around mainstream bestsellers, some people read the classics and/or literary fiction on the airplane.

(On an unrelated note: I would hesitate to use the term "junky" at all. Books which only entertain aren't the same as broken televisions and pulverized twinkies--of which I could do without even if I was looking to satisfy a sweet tooth.)

BooksPlease said...

I agree that every book I read for pleasure is literature, but I also agree with Sya - airplane books are not always junky fiction - I've read some of the best books ever whilst on a plane - it's the best way to pass the time.

Gentle Reader said...

jaime--happy BTT to you, too! I like to read a broad range, too. "Literature" as a definition isn't only the classics to me :)

lisamm--exactly! Sometimes you want a little light reading, and for me, those are airplane books :)

Gentle Reader said...

sya--my husband's offhand phrase "airplane books" might be better called "airport books"--the books generally available in airport stores. Not that there aren't a few gems in the airport stores. But I'm a nervous flyer, so I have to read something "light" on a plane, or I can't read at all. If I bring anything dense, I can't concentrate at all.

And I agree that junky is probably not a great term for books at all. Even the worst book is better for you than a twinkie. Sorry for not being more precise.

Gentle Reader said...

booksplease--I think sya is right, and I often bring wonderful books onto a plane. Unfortunately, though I seem to be getting over it now that my children are a little older, I'm a nervous flyer. So if I bring a book with dense prose--anything I really have to concentrate on--I can forget about actually reading it! I just read the same sentence over and over whilst listening to engine noises...

bethany said...

yes, I so agree with what you consider lit. glad someone out there does!!

I know what you mean by airplane books, that is a great definition!

check my answer out, let me know what you think.

Table Talk said...

I'm sure that being able to stand the test of time and speak to different generations and types of people has to be of some consequence here. It is certainly one of my criteria.

Gentle Reader said...

table talk--Good criteria, certainly! I enjoyed your post on the topic :)

One of the commenters on your post mentioned how many BTT participants were scared away from "literature" by bad school experiences. I found that really interesting, too. And sad. I wondered if their narrow definition of literature might make that fear worse. It's definitely been a thought-provoking BTT :)

stefanie said...

We call them brain candy at our house :)

Literature is hard to define but I tend to think of the classics and contemporary fiction writers like Margaret Atwood when someone says literature. Everything I read I read for fun. Otherwise, why bother?

Literary Feline said...

What a great answer! I really think that literature is in the eye of the beholder to some extent--we all have our own ideas. Your comment about literature being writings worth remembering made me chuckle a bit. There are some classics I've read that would probably be classified as literature and yet I don't remember much of them at all.

Gentle Reader said...

stefanie--I like "brain candy", I think I'll steal it! I only read for pleasure, too--otherwise you're right, why bother?

literary feline--I agree that the category "literature" is in the eye of the beholder, too. It partly comes down to taste--books we think are "worthy of remembering", or stand the test of time, or whatever, are ultimately just books that we think are really good!

Bybee said...

My first and gut reaction to that word is that it's something written before 1900. How I decided on that particular year, I cannot say.

Gentle Reader said...

bybee--I think a lot of people have the reaction that literature has stood the test of time, and certainly anything that's still around from before 1900 passes that test. I like your random date as well as any! :)