Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Mickey Spillane

From: Stephen Burridge (
Date: 01 Nov 2007

I agree with much of what Jim says, though of course I would have said it differently.

I would quibble with Jim's own definition, "All writing written to be read by the general public...", which seems to exclude diaries, letters, writing intended for small exclusive readerships, etc. The intended readership doesn't seem to be essential to the definition. I think the key point is that it's prose or verse, i.e. text, which to my mind includes plays but not theatrical performances, screenplays but not movies. I don't know about comics; I suppose they qualify. (They don't interest me.)

A definition this broad may be inadequate; it might be necessary to write in clauses excluding instruction manuals and other kinds of strictly functional prose. I wouldn't want to get involved in any such exercise.

I have no real problem with anyone who wants to reserve "literature" for writing they consider superior, though I may disagree. This does seem to lead naturally to the whole can of worms around "genre writing that's so good it's actually almost like literature", which many on this list would feel strongly about. I use categories like "literary" and "genre" to describe different kinds of writing all the time, possibly without fully understanding all their implications. Fiction can provide a lot of different kinds of satisfactions. I'm open to some and not to others. I'm no authority. And I'm not a literary elitist, though I don't have much patience with literature I consider stupid and cynical.

Sorry, this kind of got away from me.


 On 11/1/07, JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Miker,
> Reyour reactions to Stephen's point below:
> "'s 1st definition makes sense to me: "writings
> in prose or verse;
> ************ ***
> "Yup. I'm familiar with the definition that includes
> everything."
> I could be wrong, but I suspect that was Stephen's
> point.
> All writing written to be read by the general public,
> whether or not it actually turns out to be readable,
> whether or not it is actually published, is
> literature.
> Some of it is bad. Most of it is probably average. A
> bit of it is good. A tiny bit falls into the category
> of "classic." And no one can tell what will be
> classic until, in the course of time, it turns out to
> be classic in retrospect.
> People who use "literature" when they mean "classic,"
> or at least "good," are being deliberately dismissive
> of that which they don't like or don't agree with,
> much like fundamentalist, evangelical protestants who,
> when they use "Christian," really mean only
> fundamentalist, evengelical protestants.
> The purpose of such usage is to diminish "the others"
> by making the broad category much more exclusive than
> it's meant to be. "This" isn't "real" literature.
> "They" aren't "real" Christians. This isn't "really"
> hard-boiled. That isn't "really" noir.
> MORAL: Don't say "literature" when you mean
> "classic."
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