Thursday, September 8, 2011

Does literature have to be difficult?

It's been awhile since I've participated in the literary blog hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase and even though it's later than I normally get a post out I decided to jump in this week.

The question is: Must all literary writing be difficult? Can you think of examples of literary writing that are not difficult?

I'm kind of building off of what Ben said in his response, so you should probably go read that and see a fully thought out answer, but I think an important thing to look at is the difference between "difficult" and "challenging".  At least in my mind, difficult is hard to read for the sake of being hard to read. It's difficult to show off how difficult it can be and even if you work your way through it, there's no pay off. It wasn't worth it. Challenging, on the other hand, can be hard to get through. But when you work through it, you feel like you've earned something. Toni Morrison's Beloved is this way, as is Louis Erdrich's Tracks (hence the reason I've yet to finish it/post it about it, even though it's a pretty short book).

This works the other way too. There are "easy" books and then there are "simple" books. The Da Vinci code is an easy book. You can get through it but there's no pay off. Orwell's Animal Farm is a simple book. It isn't overly showy or overly flowy but when you finish it you feel full. An easy book is the literary equivalent of empty calories.

So no, being literary doesn't mean being difficult. Nor does being difficult mean you're literary.

What do you think? Is literary fiction necessarily difficult?