Getting Real About Literature
I honestly feel that everyone is entitled to a preference in the arts. Nothing you enjoy or do not enjoy is going to harm me or anyone else, so long as the art itself has no victim, such as child porn pictures or something. So if this author wants to be so brazen as to dismiss what seems to be two thirds of all fiction ever written because it doesn’t rise to his standards of “life changing” excellence, so be it. It’s his right. But it’s also my right to call out just how obnoxious he is for doing so.
I myself have not read Terry Pratchett, but apparently that is not a prerequisite for talking about the impact of his work. (The author himself admits he has never read Pratchett either.) Let’s say, however, that I didn’t like his books after reading them. So? Is that going to lessen his impact on the sci-fi/fantasy world? Obviously not. Why, therefore, would this guy’s assessment (having not read any of Pratchett’s books, proudly) keep Pratchett and others outside of the realm of “literature”? (Not that Pratchett fans or himself, from what I gather, insisted on his being considered literature by such stringent definitions.)
Is Pratchett to be degraded because his isn’t Gabriel García Márquez, or whatever other dearly departed authors this guy has declared to be of importance to the very survival of humanity? I suppose in the author’s world, the answer is “yes, of course.”
The thing is, literature is not solidly defined in practice, even if it may be in the dictionary. Anybody who spends time around the writing and publishing world, even with no more than a single eye open is aware of just how fluid the definition of “literature” and “genre fiction” has become over the last few generations. I wonder just how high of an ivory tower one must be in to remain unaware of this, as the author of this article seems to be.
That is separate from the hubris of declaring both that literature “changes lives” and that Pratchett is not literature. One’s life being changed is even more subjective than the definition of literature, and I’ll thank this guy not to determine what has or hasn’t changed mine. I can’t speak as to whether Pratchett’s works would be “life changing” for me, but I can speak to the fact that they must have been to someone, many someones in fact. Hence his popularity and the state of mourning in wake of his recent death.
Who said, by the way, that to be “literature” a book must change one’s entire life anyway? That’s a fairly lofty standard to uphold, even for “literature” isn’t it?
Yet even if we accept that definition, we have to also accept that any given reader will possibly consider to be literature works by Pratchett, or King, or Austin, or Kerouac, or me, or whoever. Something tells me though that confronted with his own definition, the article’s author would move the goal posts. That’s fine, though. People like him can argue about angels on the head of a quill pen, while the rest of the world enjoys reading what moves them and even calling it “literature” if they so choose.
- Posted in: Writing