05 November 2010

Literary Blog Hop!!!

Literary Blog Hop

I am psyched to join in the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase.

Here is the prompt:
Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it "literary."

Here is my response:


I think I will highlight my all time favorite book here, since I don't believe I've talked about it on the blog.  That book is White Noise by Don DeLillo.


I read White Noise for the first time in college, in a Satire class.  I was hooked from the first sentence: "The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus."  I love academic novels and I like satire quite a bit, and I knew this book would be for me.  I've read it twice since: once in graduate school and once for fun between graduate and undergraduate. 

Here is the plot in a nutshell: Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler studies at a small liberal arts college.  He has an "average" American family, although his kids are exaggerations of the overacheiving youngsters that have become so common in my generation.  They travel the world, and complete engineering projects, and study German literature.  Jack is having some sort of midlife crisis that is compounded by an Airborne Toxic Event that hits the small town where they live.  During the 'event' Jack is exposed to radiation and becomes obsessed with his impending death.  This is all very funny and sad at the same time.

Babette-Jack's wife- is one of my favorite female characters in all the literature I've read, which is a very strange statement to make coming from someone who has read many of the great female characters.

I suppose I should talk about what makes it literary, and my initial impulse is to say that it is literary because it was on my M.A. exam list, but that is a cop out.  However, when books are canonized and taught, that is often when they become Literature (with a capital "L").  This book is Literature.  It is commonly taught and considered classic.  Now that I'm on the other side, deciding which books to teach, I realize that choosing what to include in a college classroom, on a syllabus is a complex process that has much to do with individual taste, as well as critical reception, and something called literary merit. It is a game of inclusion and exclusion. 

I think that DeLillo's book has literary merit.  Satire as a form is self-aware, so there is a consideration of the book as Literature, by the author.  Since it is a pre-determined form, to some extent, the author is working within a tradition (one of T.S. Eliot's qualifiers for something being Literature).  There are literary devices, such as literalization of the figurative and exaggeration, that are common in satire. I would also add that a good sign of something literary is the fact that it is politically and socially aware.  Literature is a cultural product, part of the record of our human experiences, and so in a literary work, their should be acknowledgment of social/political/economic circumstances.  This book is all that.

It's also a great read.

Here are some resources for examining how books become Literature:

The Wikipedia entry on the Great Books Curriculum
T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

13 comments:

  1. saying hi on hope how strange I choose underworld as my book ,love Delillo's writing style ,underworld is my favourite by him ,but like whole noise as well ,all the best stu

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  2. I have read White Noise a few weeks ago and share your enthusiasm for it. It's a powerhouse that hides into a fun-loving costume. A truly deranging novel.

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  3. Found you at the hop. (Hello!)

    White Noise sounds really interesting. I hadn't heard of it and just added it to Goodreads.

    Good to meet you. :-)

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  4. I was hoping around and am really intrigued with your favorite book. I am adding it to my TBR list. Thank you.

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  5. oops I meant hopping not hoping - I could be hoping too I guess :)

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  6. I've not read this book, and I've now put it on my to-read list.

    I'm a teacher, and even though I teach 7 and 8 year olds I still have trouble deciding what books to cover in English lessons. Of course my decisions are not based on literary merit (although I think children's books can have that), but on what will engage them? What will get them to love reading?

    I'm now following your blog, look forward to reading more of your reviews.

    Sam at Tiny Library

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  7. I have a big Delillo-size hole in my reading list--time to really get serious about reading this book. I would like to hear more about why Babette is your favorite character!

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  8. I just commented about DeLillo on Winstonsdad's blog! Although I have Falling Man here on my tbr pile, I've yet to read this author. Sounds like I'm missing out...

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  9. AWESOME post. I've heard so much about this author and from your description I think I would love this book. Also, thanks for sharing the T.S. Eliot essay, I'm about to read it.

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  10. Thank you everyone for visiting my blog.

    winstonsdad: One of the other blogs I have listed on my profile is a discussion blog with some friends about Underworld. I have to admit, I've never finished it though. I like it a lot, I just have a really hard time finishing long books without getting distracted by something else.

    Ben: I'm glad you like it as well.

    Jillian: Nice to meet you, I hope you enjoy White Noise.

    Beachreader: Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy.

    Sam: Thanks for following. Choosing what to read is definitely one of the hardest, and most fun parts of my job.

    Bibliophiliac: I can relate to Babette. She feels real to me, which is one of the things that I like about DeLillo in general. There are moments in the prose where I'm just there.

    Joann: I haven't read Falling Man yet, but I've heard good things. I'm not a huge fan of some of the newer work like Cosmopolis and the Body Artist, but I hear Falling Man is an exception.

    IngridLola: Let me know what you think about the Eliot essay. I have mixed feelings myself, but it definitely gets me thinking.

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  11. I'm finding that it takes much longer to hop around a Literary Blog Hop than a typically eclectic blog hop....Literary book bloggers have much longer posts than your typical vampire-loving book bloggers.

    Much more satisfying, too.

    Hope you will stop by my blog from time to time.

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  12. Thanks for hopping by my blog & following. Now returning the favour :) So nice to find a blog with similar reading tastes! Saw your Top 10 Tuesday...I did that meme, too, bu how did I not think of Charlotte's Web?!? It always makes me cry.

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  13. Ah, I've never read anything by DeLillo, but I've been meaning to ever since noting multiple mentions of him by David Foster Wallace (who I love). White Noise definitely sounds like something I'd like.
    And I really enjoyed your musings about Literature. Thanks!

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I love your comments. Thanks for making me a happy blogger.

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