Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Week in Reading November 9 - 15

Some strong names pop up this week. The British Isles gave us two novelists, Scotland's prolific storywriter and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, and Ireland and England's Oliver Goldsmith, a playwright and novelist. There are two important Russians from the nineteenth century, playwright, novelist Ivan Turngenev and novelist, storywriter Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Naturalist German playwright, poet and novelist Gerhart Hauptman won one of the earliest Nobel prizes (1912) and later Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco won awards in France where he was the leading light of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Poets Anne Sexton, Vachel Lindsay, and Marianne Moore share the week with more recent literary names which include Kurt Vonnegut and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes. Many other names, from many other genres of writing, both fiction and nonfiction, make up the rest of the week's list, some literary, some not. Or is this being too traditional?

This Week's Question: What, after all, is literature? Why do we reward those who achieve it and give short shrift to those who do not aspire to it? Yet, why do some who do not aspire to it achieve it anyway? There are other things to read besides what is traditionally called literature. Or is there not? Can just anything written to be read be called literature? A literary critic born this week says simply "Literature is the question minus the answer." Who said it? And what the heck does that mean? Is what was said clear?

Answer to Last Week's Question: "Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators." was said by Albert Camus. "I don't think it ever hurts the writer to sort of stand back now and then and look at his stuff as if he were reading it instead of writing it." was the advice of popular novelist James Jones and perhaps that's among the reasons he was popular.

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