I have been keenly aware of a “phenomenon” recently, even though it must have been going on for a long time — many people preface their discussing of a recent favorite children’s book by saying, “Um… I know it is not that literary…” and then going into some details as to why the speaker enjoyed the book: it has such an exciting plot; the idea is so intriguing; the characters are so funny; there are so many cool magical elements, etc. And yet, during this enthusiastic reporting — the speaker has to qualify more than once that, “I think that children would LOVE this book, even though it is not that literary” or “I don’t know why I liked it so much, even if I could see that it doesn’t have much literary merit…”
I am weary of this apologetic tone. What IS literary anyway? It seems to me that when someone says that a book is “not literary” she means that the “language is not metaphoric or descriptive” or the “sentence structures are not that complex” – basically, there is a straightforwardness to the writing style that is too low or too simple to elevate the work onto the “literary altar.”
More thoughts to come — when I’m no longer completely wiped out!