Lately I was reading an article about reading habits and cognition. In this article the researchers claimed that reading literary fiction can boost our cognitive performance a lot more than popular fiction can. They said that, “just as in real life, the worlds of literary fiction are replete with complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.”
A literary continuum.
In a quite caustic tone Ezra Pound wrote that “The secret of popular writing is never to put more on a given page than the common reader can lap off it with no strain whatsoever on his habitually slack attention.”
For sure, popular fiction is often formulaic and presents somewhat stereotyped characters. On one hand this makes for a very easy read, but on the other hand it adds next to nothing to our baggage of experience as readers. However, I must also say that out of sheer boredom, on more than one occasion I had to put down a so-called literary work.
As a result, I believe that literary and popular works aren’t completely distinct entities. Rather, they fall on a continuum. A continuum that over the last few years has seen a proliferation of new genres, and an evolution too. In fact, among the mountains of new novels that are published every day, I believe there is a sizable section of popular works that aren’t easily classifiable. For example, works that have gripping stories, sure, but whose characters are quite troubled and multifaceted. Works that make us think. Continue reading