Warning: This is a rant.
Second Warning: I wrote this post several months ago, set it back in my list of "to publish" stuff and then forgot about it. (I still feel the same way, but the heat came from a moment that I'll be explaining on Friday (Wed has a different planned post).
Literature comes from a Latin word that means "of letters". We've taken that word as a society and twisted it to mean, "books with snob value that lesser mortals will never enjoy."
Admittedly I like to read some classic literature, but I don't like to define certain books as "literary" and others as "fluff." I think those are dangerous and foolish definitions that ruin reading for everyone.
Why do we need to put up a boundary between "good" "literature" and "bad" "literature"?
Why can't we all just read books and enjoy them?
I happen to like Scifi books by Orson Scott Card; fantasy books by Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and Jessica Day George; classic fiction by Charles Dickens; plays by Shakespeare; poetry by modern poets and classic poets. I like YA and MG books because they have amazingly well developed characters and usually hopeful endings.
I don't like books that expound on the misery of the human condition like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, or Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I wish I could take back the time in my life when I had to read those awful books for university English classes.
However, I still like Hamlet and Macbeth . . .which both show human suffering and misery, but end with justice. To Kill a Mockingbird is an awesome book that doesn't pull any punches when it comes to real, painful issues, but it has a bittersweet ending that I love.
There's nothing wrong with books that get into real life woes, I just don't like the ones that leave us with the feeling that hope is futile. A number of books on the "good" literature lists are books that start and end in the misery of the human condition with no hope offered. In those books, the characters don't appear to learn anything, and the story ends not far from where it begins even if decades have passed. And yet, because the prose writing is beautiful and some group of stuffy professors decided they liked it, it gets the seal of "quality" literature.
Given the choice between "life is misery and that's all there is" books and books that show character development and end with a brighter horizon, why does it surprise the literary snobs that so-called "literature" is being overlooked for "fluff" fiction?