The Blue Bookcase blog is hosting a “Literary Blog Hop” this weekend, and I thought I’d take part, as I tend as I tend to think of this blog as covering literary fiction. Participants are asked to answer the following prompt: Please highlight one of your favourite books and why you would consider it “literary.”
Okay, that’s a good opportunity for me to think through what I mean by “literary”. I doubt I could come up with any hard-and-fast definition that wouldn’t have fuzzy edges, but here goes. I don’t think of literary fiction as a category that excludes particular genres; I think of it as a general description of books that I can appreciate as something more than just a way of passing the time.
The novel I’ve chosen to highlight here is my favourite read of last year – The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton. I’ve already written on it at some length here, and so don’t want to repeat myself too much, but, to give some context: The Rehearsal is about an alleged scandal between a teacher and pupil at a girls’ school, and a play inspired by the scandal which students from the local drama college decide to stage. Then again, that’s not really what the book is “about”; it’s about different kinds of performance and pretence – in life, not just in theatre.
What makes The Rehearsal “literary” for me is the way that its main theme is played out on so many levels, and that the different aspects reinforce each other. The drama students literally put on a show; the girls at the school do so metaphorically in how they relate to each other. Some scenes read more like a theatrical production (and not necessarily the one being staged at the drama college) than a report of “reality” – even the novel itself is putting on a show. Catton takes risks with structure and dialogue, but it all works, because everything is tied back to the central idea of rehearsing.
So, that’s The Rehearsal. Now to check out some of the other blogs in the hop…