Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

And for the other blog hop I like to participate in, the literary blog hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase, this week's questions are:

Is there such a thing as literary non-fiction? If so, how do you define it? Examples?

My answer is: Yes, of course. But my definition is not quite so definitive. "Literary" is such a squishy definition for me. I agree it has to have aesthetic merit, but there is a certain degree of subjectivity that goes into making that judgment. So my definition would be: in literary nonfiction the writing should be as important as if not more important than the content to the author's intention and to the reader's enjoyment of the work.

As for examples, I don't read very much nonfiction that isn't work related, and that is very content driven. It's not meant to be pretty.

If I had to come up with a book that stuck in my mind as a rather lyrical piece of nonfiction, it would be Zoe Oldenbourg's Massacre at Montsegur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade. Even though I could tell where her bias was, it was so compellingly told, I felt emotionally convinced by the way she portrayed the story.
Literary Blog Hop


  1. Not heard of this, but it sounds compelling, a book in a similar light,ie lot of tragedy is Haruki Murakami's underground.
    thanks i enjoyed your choice

  2. Writing is definitely key to literary, I think. That's what can make the difference between a historical book being, as a history prof once said to me, "one damn thing after another" and being a truly riveting book to read.

  3. "History" is the first thing I thought of when I put my mind to the idea if literary non-fiction. Good choice.

    But then none of my examples from my reading this year were history, so answering this questions was a good reminder.

    Rose City Reader

  4. One of the best books I've ever read and certainly my favorite piece of historical fiction is The World is Not Enough. No idea this author also wrote nonfiction.

    Here's my post on literary nonfiction. I'd love to hear what you think.

    And if you have read any wonderful literary books
    published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
    for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
    include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.
    Nominations close December 15.

  5. I totally agree with your comment regarding the term "literary" and also that the writing is as important as the content, but then writing is also quite encompassing... ;)
    About what Amy says, I think that could be related to what Hayden White says on therecording of history as he differentiates between the annals (list of dates and events), the chronicle (which is more like a narrative but does not have closure) and the historical narrative (which narrativises the events, thus giving them meaning and significance). Should we add to this distinction another level with the literary historical narrative?

  6. I'm not gonna lie, I love the word "squishy." Isn't that such an appealing word?
    Thanks for participating this week Susan! :)

  7. I even consider scientific writing as literary writing...

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!