The Blue Bookcase has started a "Literary Blog Hop" for blogs "that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion."
Each week, in addition to hopping around and visiting some terrific book blogs, participants answer a bookish question. This week's question is:
Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?
Connie answered "yes" on behalf of the Blue Bookcase team and makes the case for Maya Angelou as a master of literary non-fiction.
I have to keep my answer short this week (compared to my Finnegans Wake diatribe last week) because I am in a frenzy of pre-holiday prep work this weekend. So I will say this:
Yes, "literature" is not confined to fiction and poetry. Non-fiction can be, and historically has been, literature. In my mind, I count any non-fiction as literature if it is well written, expresses ideas as well as facts, and has some lasting value -- either because if its historical significance or because the ideas still resonate.
I've read quite a bit of non-fiction this year, not all of which I would count as literary, even though they may have been entertaining or useful. Those I would put in the literary category include the following:
- Another Way the River Has by Robin Cody (reviewed here);
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (reviewed here);
- The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White (reviewed here);
- The Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling Through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World (reviewed here);
- My Life in France by Julia Child (reviewed here)
- The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (reviewed here);
- Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (reviewed here); and
- A Year in the World by Frances Mayes (reviewed here).
I look forward to reading other people's answers to this question. It is another interesting one.