Non-Fiction AND Literary? Blog Hop

Posted 19 November, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook / 22 Comments

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Literary Blog Hop

If you’re looking for the Apple Pie I promised you today [Friday], you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow. I had totally planned on switching back and forth between Weekend Cooking and Literary Blog Hop on Fridays as I’m not a fan of posting on Saturdays, but I couldn’t pass up this week’s topic of “Literary Non-Fiction.”  One of these days I’ll convince all those non-believers that non-fiction can be fabulous.

The Question:

Does Literary Non-Fiction exist? Well sure! And how does one define Literary Non-Fiction? That’s a little more complicated.

I haven’t really wanted to pin myself down to a definition of “literary” because it’s one of those nebulous terms that tends to change and morph depending on the conversation. I’m not even really sure I’d define “literary” the same way for non-fiction as I would for fiction. But, in a very basic sense, “literary” to me is when authors make conscious stylistic choices for a more aesthetic feel to a book.  How about that.  A vague description for a vague word.

How does that translate to non-fiction?  Memoirs and exposés immediately come to my mind–especially as authors are trying to find creative ways of telling their story.  Some examples  (links to my thoughts):

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
A Rumor of War – Philip Caputo 
 The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

What do you see as being “literary” non-fiction?

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22 Responses to “Non-Fiction AND Literary? Blog Hop”

  1. I’ve tried and tried, but no matter what I do, I just can’t generally get into nonfiction! The only form of nonfiction I really enjoyed was memoirs and for at least six months now, maybe longer, I haven’t liked them either. The more nonfiction I read, the less I like it. :( Hence me not taking part in this week’s literary blog hop…

  2. great answers-I am now a google reader follower of your as well as new twitter follower-I am looking forward to reading future posts

  3. Somehow I have a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (that I haven’t read) and I didn’t even realize it was NF. Geez. Once again I’m thankful for this blog hop. :)

  4. I have a hard time defining literary fiction as well. To me it has more to do with the writing and style. I think any genre can be literary depending on how its handled.

    I loved the Glass Castle and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I agree with you that they are literary. The writing was so fluid and beautiful. It felt like I was reading fiction.

  5. When I think ‘literary’ I think about writing style and ‘depth’ of the writing. So yes, non-fiction can be literary too. I guess memoirs are the obvious choice – although Persepolis being ‘literary’ is creating a short circuit in my brain right now!

  6. *Coffee and a Book – How fun that you did the walking tour! I’ve read this book twice now and it’s true what they say that truth is stranger than fiction. Would love to go to Savannah someday!

    *Amanda – I know you don’t like it and I so wish you did. It’s such a HUGE genre–like saying you don’t like fiction–but it’s tough when you can’t find anything that works for you.

    *Mel U – Thanks Mel–you followed at Trish’s Reading Nook, so it’s good to see you again. ;)

    *Melody – Oh, definitely! I had no idea Midnight in the Garden was non-fiction until I read the book. And it reads like fiction. Definitely try it–it’s a great read.

    *Veens – Of course they will silly goose. Actually, out of this list read The Glass Castle. It reads more like fiction and is such a great book.

    *Kristi – I absolutely agree that any genre can have literary books in it! I do believe it is a style, but it’s so hard to pin down that style. Glad you liked The Glass Castle and Midnight! Both great non-fiction reads.

    *Joanna – LOL! I know Persepolis would throw people off. I was going to choose Maus as a graphic novel example but I highlight that one so often I wanted a change. I definitely think Persepolis is literary! :P

    *Bermuda – Glad you liked them too.

  7. I loved The Glass Castle when I read it, but the others are new to me, or I have yet to read them. I’ve seen Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil lots of times without really knowing what it was about. If it’s literary non-fiction then no wonder it’s a bit unclear! :-)

  8. I’ve been meaning to read Glass Castles for a long time. I even own it, but somehow haven’t picked it up yet even though I keep hearing great things about it.

  9. Can’t believe I forgot Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – what a great book! At least In Cold Blood was included in my post. I may be the only person that didn’t like The Glass Castle… loaned it to a friend and told her not to return it.

  10. Mmm apple pie. I’ve heard GREAT things about The Glass Castle. And I loved In Cold Blood. I definitely agree that literary writing is “aesthetic” in some way, however vague that might be. Thanks for participating this week Trish :)

  11. In Cold Blood was one of the few books required for reading in high school that I really enjoyed. Romeo and Juliet just is not my thing, nor is The Scarlett Letter…

    As for the question at hand, I agree that nonfic can be literary, and that a large part of being literary is aesthetic and stylistic choices – the elevation of form over content, or at least making form equal to content.

  12. Oohh Midnight in the Garden is an all time favorite of mine. I always forget that’s non-fiction. Seabiscuit is another excellent non-fiction work. Reads wonderfully.

  13. *Amy – I haven’t read any Krakauer, but I’ve heard good things. Will have to keep my eye out.

    *Guatami – Glad to see someone else agree with Persepolis and the Graphic Memoir as being literary!

    *LitLove – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is an expose of Savannah as well as a murder mystery. Very fascinating—mostly factual—but Berendt certainly allows his opinions color his writing. Still worth a go!

    *Parrish – Persepolis is a fantastic read—very moving. I’d also recommend The Complete Maus if you haven’t read it already?

    *Bellezza – Definitely read The Glass Castle. It’s an amazing story—sometimes hard to read. It’s one of those where I couldn’t believe I was actually reading non-fiction.

    *Lisa – Thank you ma’am. Love me some non-fiction!

    *Reviewsbylola – In Cold Blood is really chilling, isn’t it? I saw the movie Capote before reading the book and they’re both so fascinating—amazing how Capote was consumed by the murders.

    *JoAnn – There are so many books that would fit into this category—I definitely had to cut my list short. You definitely have me interested in why you didn’t like The Glass Castle! ;)

    *Ingrid – If you’re ever looking for an escape read that moves pretty quickly, definitely read The Glass Castle. It’s a beautifully written memoir that is hard to believe is actually non-fiction rather than fiction!

    *Trisha – What about Lord of the Flies where those pesky kids start beating up on each other? :P I didn’t read In Cold Blood for school but it would have been neat to discuss with a class!

    *Readerbuzz -Thanks for the information on the Independent Literary Awards and for the visit.

    *Jenny Girl -Seabiscuit! I haven’t read that one in years and forgot about it—but I agree that it’s a great example of literary non-fiction. Glad you liked Midnight as well—such an interesting book! Have you read Berendt’s book about Venice?