Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for #LITERATURE (#atozchallenge)

"Literature" is one of those words that expands to fill the space you allot for it.

If you buy an inflatable plastic swimming pool, and if that inflatable plastic swimming pool happens to come with a sheet bearing written instructions, those instructions are, technically, literature. If you buy a book that starts as something small enough for you to hold in your hands, but ends up being big enough to hold a whole world to which you wish to return again and again, that too is literature.

In the sense that distinguishes the sheet of swimming-pool instructions from The Sun Also Rises, we mean, I think, "Fictional or poetic writing that makes you want to read it twice.

Once you accept a definition like this, you also notice that this wanting-to-return-to-it-sense may mean that some things are literature for me that aren't literature for you.

I don't think it's possible to write a book that works for everyone as literature (in this restrictive sense), and that is okay. But I think making you want to read something again, whether or not you actually do, is what serious writers aspire to.

We are talking about intention here. A good carpenter aims to build a house that lasts. A good writer aims to build a book that people want to read twice or more. I hang out with a lot of writers, and it's interesting to me how many of them are focused on writing something that will attract interest, rather than something that merits repeat reading. 

I've now read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises twice -- once in my teens and once in my fifties -- and both times I finished it glowing, with a promise to myself that I would someday read it again. I just pray it doesn't take me another three and a half decades to get to it the next time. 

So: I believe Hemingway was out to create, not just a book, but a book that people would want to come back to. This is a high standard, and a lot of work, but it's what I tried to hold myself to with my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.  It took me a while, but I think that, for some people, that's the kind of book it will be. 

Literature is my jihad. Click the image below for a video excerpt from JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.

 Click this image for a video excerpt from JIHADI: A LOVE STORY