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Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Friday, November 19, 2010

Literary Blog Hop

The Literary Blog Hop is a weekly feature sponsored by The Blue Bookcase. 

This week the focus is on literary non-fiction.

Like literary fiction, I guess literary non-fiction would be
  • thematically complex
  • crafted with attention to style and voice
  • not ephemeral, but lasting
  • resonant
  • important in some way--perhaps in subject, or in its connection to other works of literature, or to profound issues of history or culture
Examples?  I thought of this:




Gibbon was a stylist, and his work is impressive for its breadth and profundity.

Then I thought of Virginia Woolf and A Room of One's Own and Moments of Being.
Woolf was an accomplished stylist and rhetorician, as well as a novelist.

And I loved this




and this



Both are examples of literary non-fiction.

But then I remembered this:



Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is a masterpiece.  Each time I read this "non-fiction novel" I am stunned by the artistry and craft of Capote's writing.  He inserts himself so seamlessly into his narrative that you forget to wonder just who it is that is telling this story.  In Cold Blood is about psychopathology, the American Dream, American failure, American journeys,American decency and American indecency. It is about narrative and the invisible or partly visible narrator.  In Cold Blood transcends genre:  it is true crime, reportage, psychological study and novel.

What is your non-fiction literary masterpiece? 

18 comments:

Jessica said...

I quite enjoyed The Devil in the White city which I read as part of a book club (which is when I read most of my non-fiction)

I have in cold blood on my TBR list which I'm looking forward to!

Melody said...

You have some good books on this list. I haven't read the Tinker Creek book...I'll have to check it out. And this hop has definitely convinced me that In Cold Blood deserves a spot on my shelf. So much to read!

Audra said...

Woolf immediately came to mind as well as Ackerman -- although I think she's more creative non-fiction than literary non-fiction, now that I think of it. I haven't read any Dillard -- I should. I just started The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, Capote, and the New Journalism Revolution which talks a lot about this advent of creative/literary non-fiction.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

The Devil in the White City was on my list as well -- I loved that book immensely. Here's my Literary view...: Coffee and a Book Chick -- Literary Blog Hop...

mel u said...

I also thought of Gibbon-by coincidence I just posted on A Room of One's Own a few days ago-I have not read your other suggestions but they do look interesting

petekarnas said...

I have to get a copy of In Cold Blood. It's been posted on so many times in regard to this topic, seems to be a bit of a gold-standard when it comes to literary non-fiction.

parrish lantern said...

The more I read about Capotes book the more intrigued I'm becoming, Gibbons I tried when I was younger & gave up on.
Enjoyed your views
Thanks
Parrish

JoAnn said...

Excellent examples! I included the last two in my answer and have both A Room of One's Own and Annie Dillard waiting on my shelf... don't know if I'll ever get to the first one though ;-)

Rose City Reader said...

Good examples. I can't promise to dive into Gibbon any time soon, but I am a big Annie Dillard fan.

Rose City Reader

readerbuzz said...

I think In Cold Blood resonates with me so much because I am American. I see the problems with the bad guys in ICB in every American I meet. Generally, to an extent to which the people are not driven to what the bad guys were driven to....

Here's my post on literary nonfiction. I'd love to hear what you think.

And if you have read any wonderful literary books
published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.
Nominations close December 15.

IngridLola said...

Great thoughts, Lisa. The more of the answers I read to this question the more I'm starting to see that non-fiction books that are written with artistic license are the ones that most people consider "literary." That is, non-fiction books with lots of detail that read like a novel, with added details and dialogue. But isn't that like saying that the fiction aspects of non-fiction are what make it "literary"?
What do you think?

gautami tripathy said...

You showcased really good works. I have only read In Cold Blood and yet to post a review of it!

Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

bibliophiliac said...

@Jessica--yes, Devil in the White City was really compelling...
@Melody--I was surprised to see how many people mentioned In Cold Blood!
@Audra--I forgot about Ackerman--her books certainly qualify, as do Didions...The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight sounds interesting...

bibliophiliac said...

@Coffee and a Book Chick--Devil in the White City was an outstanding book.
@Mel--that is a coincidence! How many people think about Gibbon? I read him in grad school, and keep meaning to reread Decline and Fall (the abridged version!)...

bibliophiliac said...

@Pete--In Cold Blood is mentioned so many times in this hop--and I didn't check other blogs before I wrote my post, and I suspect the same holds for the other bloggers...
@parrish lantern--In Cold Blood is definitely worth reading.

bibliophiliac said...

@JoAnn--It seems like a lot of us were on the same wave-length this week!
@Rose City Reader--Annie Dillard's non-fiction is so highly charged and gorgeous. I also loved her novel, The Maytrees.

bibliophiliac said...

@readerbuzz--In cold Blood does seem quintessentially American...
@IngridLola--I think there's some truth to what you say--we think of non-fiction as literary when it incorporates many of the stylistic and narrative devices of good fiction. But then Annie Dillards non-fiction qualifies mostly because of her craft and use of language--not so much because of novelistic tendencies.

bibliophiliac said...

@gautami--I will be interested to read your review of In Cold Blood when you do post it...