Re: RARA-AVIS: Literary Merit

Date: 04 Mar 2007

I think Jack's arguement has some merit, but that's just my opinion.

Cheers, Harry

Quoting Bludis Jack <>:

> A friend recently asked me what I meant by, "Literary
> merit." I thought long and hard before I answered, because
> my ideas about that have changed over the years and they
> can often be changed by a single book reminding me of how
> good they are.
> I think that literary merit means different things to
> different people.
> For me: is it clear? does it tell a story? do I feel
> knocked dead by the writing? A recent example in my reading
> is Cormack McCarthy's "The Road." Others might snarl at the
> book's sentence fragments and weird punctuation, but it is
> perfectly clear, made me feel the presence and emotion of
> the characters and kept me turning pages. Even when nothing
> was happening, I had a great fear that something terrible
> was about to happen. When a book keeps me reading and I am
> in awe of the writing without being unduly distracted by
> it, "That's" Literary Merit.
> I recently read my first James Lee Burke in years: Yep, he
> qualifies has having literary merit. (Still opinion of
> course.)
> I like James Joyce--other than "Finnegan's Wake."
> It took me some time to get into Faulkner, but after I did:
> Wow! "This (author) sounds like an idiot," I kept thinking
> of Benji. A moment later, I realized that the opening pages
> of "The Sound and the Fury" were being narrated by a man
> who is severely retarded.
> The best of the mystery "literary merit" guys, all time, is
> Chandler.
> Some believe that flowery, convoluted, or ultra description
> "is" literary merit. If you have to stop reading to admire
> it--Nah.
> With me, a piece doesn't have literary merit unless it
> gives me a sense of people and place and a desire to
> continue the story, without constantly distracting me with
> the prose.
> A mystery writer often praised here and elsewhere for
> literary merit is Ross Macdonald. For me, his figures of
> speech are so convoluted that I had to stop and think about
> them to the point where I started to ignore them. Then I
> decided after three books to pass on reading him again. I
> tried recently and hated the time I spent with the book.
> There are many genre readers and writers who look down
> their noses at anything that get's tagged as having
> literary merit. The most sarcastic description, I suppose,
> is, "It's 50,000 beautiful words that say nothing." I don't
> remember who said that, but it's a paraphrase of someone
> else, not orginal with me.
> As a reader, I prefer story. I read Robert B. Parker,
> Stuart Woods, and the late Sidney Shelton and prefer them
> over those who write supposed literary masterpieces like
> Jonathan Frazen; but certainly not over James Lee Burke or
> Lawrence Block.)
> OK, I went on and on.
> All of that is opinion. But I have an even stronger
> opinion: nothing is true literature (note the change from
> literary to literature) unless it's still being read 50
> years after the author is dead. By that definition, Agatha
> Christie is literature, no matter what I think of her
> "literary merit."
> Jack Bludis
> Shamus nominee for *Shadow of the Dahlia*
> Try "Blondes, Blondes, Blondes" at
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