08 September 2011
Literary Blog Hop: Too Difficult?
I was happy to see the Literary Blog Hop this week over at The Blue Bookcase. This is a meme for blogs with a focus on literary fiction. If you think your blog might fit the category, head over there and check it out. It is much fun.
This week's topic is thus: Must all literary writing be difficult? Can you think of examples of literary writing that was not difficult?
I'm not entirely sure about the word difficult in the prompt this week. Difficult in what sense? That I had to reread to comprehend (Ulysses)? That I needed to read with a dictionary by my side? That the book tested my endurance (Moby Dick or Middlemarch or Lolita)? That I needed a deep well of literary and/or historical and/or philosophical knowledge to understand the work (T.S. Eliot)?
Many literary works are "difficult" in all these, and probably many more, ways. Some aren't. However, I think to be "literary" a book must provoke thought, and there are many deceptively simple texts that, in fact, upon closer examination "contain multitudes" (thanks Walt).
There are two such texts that have played a predominant role in my development as a lover of the literary, and those are The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises. I'll focus just on Gatsby, however, as my example here. [THERE ARE SPOILERS BTW, in case you have not delighted in THE Great American Novel]. When I read Gatsby, I drank the book in only a couple of sittings (I'm sure many have done it in one). I languished in Fitzgerald's lush prose, and glittery descriptions of the Jazz Age. I felt propelled by the story, the drama, and seduced (like Nick) by Jay Gatsby's charm and by the "good life" that they all are striving for. This is the brilliance of the complexity that lies beneath the shiny facade. Underneath is a story of false identity, of self-denial and the dark side of desire. Gatsby is a fake, but Nick denies it. The life is so shiny, the American dream, and the darkness so easy to ignore when you are a young buck like Nick. It is easy for the reader to ignore all that along with him, to see past the sadness in the end, the unreachable green light, and instead be seduced by Nick's hope that one day he will reach it. And that, my friends, is deceptive simplicity.
So, although your reading of Gatsby might be different than mine, maybe we can agree that when something is literary- worth reading many years after it is written- it is not entirely simple. Whatever difficult means, it must be some of that.
What do you all think? What is the most deceptively simple book you've read?