Food for thought: What is literature?

THE difference between literature and its imitations might be defined in any number of ways, but let’s be reckless, even elitist, and propose that a literary novel requires new reading skills and teaches them within its pages, while a conventional novel — whether it is about lawyers or professors or smart single girls — depends on our ingrained habits of reading and perception, and ultimately confirms them as adequate to our understanding of the world around us.


True or false or neither? Is McInerney on to something here? Does literature teach us something while pedestrian fiction merely entertains us via preconceived notions about plot, etc.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. I don’t think I understand what Mr. McInerney is saying, and I suspect it isn’t saying anything. How am I using or learning new skills in Wharton’s The Age of Innocence or Percy’s The Second Coming? Maybe I am in The Sound and the Fury, but am I using new reading skills in The Great Gatsby?

    But then he did say his definition was reckless.

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