So I wake up at 12:06 this morning, an inconvenient time to greet the day, but I suppose I should have thought of that when I closed my eyes for “just a spot of a nap” at 5:28 last night.
A few projects are quietly nudging me in the background. I’ve got re-revisions of the ook-bay to poke at, and I need to sit down and crank out the narrative text for a chapter of annotations I’m doing. But I am groggy after my “nap,” and am seriously contemplating a sequel “nap,” so I made the decision to procrastinate on those projects. Really had to twist my own arm to reach that conclusion.
“I’ll just blog for a bit instead,” I decided, and then realized I had nothing to say.
“I’ll just read other people’s blogs for a bit instead,” I decided anew. It was a shrewd strategy, one carefully designed to maximize two goals, viz., being lazy, and killing just enough time for me to demarcate the division between Nap 1 and Nap 2.
My plan failed, for two reasons: first, Cute Overload isn’t loading right. This is the sort of thing that strikes me as a national disaster. What’s strange is that the major media outlets are, thus far, silent. There are pictures of cute little pandas and bunnies and kitties that I am CURRENTLY UNABLE TO SEE, and no one but me appreciates the tragic implications.
Second reason: Since my links to Cute Overload yielded a life-isn’t-worth-living screen of blank nihilist white, the one link in my Google Reader that did work was thrown into sharp relief. Hooray for Citizen Reader, rescuing me once again from boredom!
Most days, Citizen Reader presents reviews of nonfiction books. Some days, she presents reviews of fiction books, which is more my cup of tea, except I should realize by now that I usually don’t like the fiction she recommends.
But today she decided to describe some of the websites she enjoys visiting. My eyes began to glaze over—compared to Cute Overload, other websites are meaningless—until I saw that she’d linked to my own.
“Oh shit,” I thought. “People are going to click on that link expecting to find meaningful book discussion here… Oh shit oh shit oh shit.”
Well. My nap interregnum suddenly has purpose. I need to cobble together some sort of demonstration that I am capable of writing intelligently. Preferably I need this intelligent writing to address librarianish issues, like books or reading, and at all costs I need to avoid my normal dithering, with chiefly consists of me fussing about my bras, or simply swearing a lot. (Witness the concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph for evidence.) Ahem:
Jessica’s Intelligent Analysis of Books, Featuring Neither Lingerie Nor Profanity
The other night I finished up The Inheritance, by David Sanger, the Washington correspondent with my favorite source of liberal bias, The New York Times. The book considers American foreign policy during the Bush years, with a jarring region-by-region analysis of our current situation in places such as Afghanistan, North Korea, and Pakistan.
The book was a downer. If it gives you any perspective, the most optimistic chapter was the one that dealt with China.
The book was also the sort of nonfiction I normally avoid. There wasn’t an overarching narrative, and there were no cute pictures of animals whatsoever. But I read it because I figure it’ll be nice to say, with an air of resigned acceptance, “Ah, I totally saw that coming” when Iran goes nuclear.
Having satisfied my duty to not be completely ignorant about world politics, I decided to reward myself with an escapist novel. I chose to curl up on the couch with What Was Lost, by debut author Catherine O’Flynn. Based on Citizen Reader’s review, I was anticipating a thriller, possibly even a conspiracy thriller. Girl goes missing; local young man accused; young man’s sister must solve mystery.
What I got was Literary Fiction.
Now I think Orson Scott Card is a one-man plague, a threat to Western peace who probably should have been mentioned in the Sanger book. (I did enjoy the one novel of his I read, Enchantment, but you won’t catch me admitting to it in public). It kills me to steal a phrase he coined, but I have no choice: “LiFi” is just perfect for talking about Literary Fiction.
As with pornography, I can’t define LiFi but I know it when I see it. LiFi books seek to understand the human experience, but personally I think you could say the same of all books.
(“Even the ones with vampires?” you ask. Yes, ESPECIALLY the ones with vampires.)
LiFi authors attempt to create stylistically beautiful prose. Sometimes they succeed, but I think it’s worth noting that genre authors often attempt to create stylistically beautiful prose. (See the successful attempt in Elizabeth Kostova’s novel The Historian, which features vampires.)
LiFi books are usually character-driven (big deal; nearly all novels are) but not often plot-driven (a shame; Western literature has a proud tradition of action-packed storytelling, going back to Homer). Emphasis is on internal thought rather than external events.
I like character-driven books. I like beautiful prose. But, with some notable exceptions, I don’t like LiFi.
Can’t put my finger on it. I love the classics, and honestly the only distinction I can make between the Literary Canon of yesteryear and the Literary Fiction of today is like so:
“The classics are just like Literary Fiction, except that they’re older, and I like them.”
Not very helpful, is it? I’m afraid I shall have to become more articulate before I can seek full-time employment in the field of literary criticism.
…At this point, gentle reader, I find myself struggling to finish this discussion. As always happens when I embark on my LiFi rant, I am butting into a wall: I largely dislike the genre of Literary Fiction, but I can never seem to capture why not. My instinct is to begin swearing but I promised not to.
Fortunately it is past 2 a.m., so I can make a hurried exit (“Oh goodness, look at the time!”) without bothering to gracefully conclude my argument. Check back later for further discussions of literature, which will probably be more interesting as they’ll include more swear words.