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Literature

Michael Dirda of Houston Chronicle offers a look at the modern state of literature and the Internet’s impact on literacy.

An interesting read, but I think he shortchanges the Internet (said the blog author). The fact is, the Internet is a valuable information resource. Just because people may let it steer them away from a good book is not the fault of the tool. And, for what it’s worth, I’m doing more than my fair share of reading, though the literary content of said reading is open to argument. 🙂

[This link comes from LocusMag. Shame on us for missing an article from out local newspaper!]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

12 Comments on Literature

  1. The problem I have with this (and an earlier article on the same subject) is the question: “What is literature?”

    Much of what we consider literature today was the equivalent of pulp fiction when it first came out. Jane Austen. Wilkie Collins. Herman Melville. Charles Dickens. Mark Twain.

    For example, Mark Twain had a quote (which I use in my .sig) “My books are water; those of great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.” (Mark Twain, “Notebook”)

    But now his books are studied at the high school and college levels, doctoral thesis count the punctuation marks, etc.

    I think the concept of “literature” is a relatively recent thing. Like other signs of a high-energy culture, “literature” did not develop until we could support a lot of useless academics. They in turn helped to foster a “art for arts sake” kind of attitude in authors. So we got “literature”.

    Is “literature” dying? Who knows? You might want to search the Locus archives for an article they did relatively recently on anime and female readers. Will anime be the next literature? Screenplays? Computer games? Gasp–science fiction novels?

    Like you folks, I’ve been doing my part to turn back the tide. I’ve been averaging 60 books a year for the past several years. Every time we go to the library, we take out a couple of dozen (no fooling) of books for our daughter and read them to her–over and over again. So, we’re working on the next generation as well.

  2. Can you tell I had too much caffine working tonight? Wait until you see me Saturday morning after pulling a 6 PM Friday until 7 AM Saturday shift!

  3. I agree, the definition of literature is somewhat subjective since it is generally meant to mean “good” writing, and “good” is in the eye of the reader. With regards to SF, did you notice that the article’s author mentioned Gene Wolfe and John Crowley? His point was that literature has no classification boundaries. For a long time, SF was though to be crap. Given the plethora of scantily dressed women in the arms of bug-eyed aliens on SF magazine covers back in the 30’s and 40’s, it’s no wonder. But, SF is slowly making its way to a more reputable form of literature. But then again, for every Wolfe, there’s a Pel Torro!

  4. And…no, didn’t notice the caffeine thing.

  5. Or a Samuel R. Delany. Gene Wolfe is great, but Delany rocks. Did you know that Delany was offered tenure as part of the deal to get him to teach at a Penn U. campus? Pretty good for a guy who used to write books for Ace in the 60’s!

  6. JP has read some Delany (and disliked it if memory serves) but I have never read any of his books. If I were to read him, what do you recommend I start with?

  7. I’ve read, forced myself really, Dhalgren and didn’t like it. Couldn’t finish The Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Both were a long time ago though so they may be better now. But I’m not inclined to try. I can see how he would be considered ‘literature’ since he plays with story structure and his use of words and phrases is intended to invoke atmosphere. Much like Wolfe, only I don’t find his stories as interesting.

  8. Dhalgren is the one I would not start with, to be sure. Try “Nova”.

  9. For what its worth, Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series (the ones with the way cool covers) offers two Delany books, Babel-17 and Nova. And Gollancz’s SF Collector’s Editions (the ones with the butt-ugly, plain, bright yellow covers) offers The Jewels of Aptor.

  10. Like I have time to go to the bookstore and find these books (looks at John….).

  11. (…Catching JP’s look) As a matter of fact, I have the SF Collector’s Edition of The Jewels of Aptor and the SF Masterworks version of Nova came in just yesterday (thanks, Bookcloseouts!).

  12. Oh dear…what have I started…they’ll all blame me if things don’t go well!

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