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What makes literature for you?

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    So, in lesson recently we had an interesting debate about literary value and what makes literature literarure. What is that for you? What is the key element in a novel that makes you think - wow, that was amazing. What novel did that for you or even any piece of literature? and why?
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    I think it can the beauty of the language, or the total truth in what is being said.

    For instance this near the start of The Great Gatsby:
    "For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face, her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened - then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk."

    That paragraph really struck me as beautiful when I began to read the book for the first time. It's not only the beautiful image that it creates in your mind - a lovely voice, belonging to a face so exquisite that it is glowing and the light can't bear to stop shining on it - but also simply the sound of the words when spoken aloud.

    Reading an extract from The Bell Jar was the first time that I really had that "wow" moment (maybe slightly worrying that it is a quotation from this book which I connect with most..?) Anyway, it's not only the wonderful way this quotation is written and constructed, but the pure accuracy of it. The realisation that this feeling was not something which only I ever felt was enlightening. It was like someone had articulately put into words my own emotions rather than theirs.

    "I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

    Amazing.

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Updated: February 23, 2012
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