Saturday, October 6, 2007
Books -- light and heavy
What makes a mystery "literary?" I started a thread, sort of, by a posting on Dorothy L about the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay. I love the books and the TV show, and put the writing in the class of novels of Martin Cruz Smith, Thomas H. Cook, and Joanne Harris, all favorites of mine.
Some disagreed, which, of course, makes for a good discussion.
Whether or not you've read Dexter, the question is still an interesting one. Put differently, why do many libraries and bookstores put "mysteries" on one rack, and "fiction" or sometimes "fiction and literature" on another? Aren't mysteries literature? Aren't they "fiction?"
I don't pretend to have a definition of what makes a work literary, just an informal, personal assessment. For me, it's a matter of the writing. I can forgive a lot of faults in plot if the writing moves me.
Not that I don't want a good story and interesting characters, but the books and authors that I remember and keep going back to are those that make me want to stop and reread a phrase or a sentence just for the surprising and pleasurable way the words are on the page.
Someone suggested that literary novels have big themes; in the case of mysteries, then, not just "who dunnit." (In Dexter the theme of good/evil is present in a much deeper way than in my books, for example.)
What do you think? Who are your literary favorites? Or don't you make that distinction?