Friday, November 5, 2010

Literary Blog Hop and The Beggar Maid

I was planning on posting a pumpkin-related tribute to Vegan MoFo today, despite the fact that I am not participating in Vegan MoFo due to NaNoWriMo.  I now feel the need to insert a whole bunch more morphemes here, (are they morphemes?  I don't think they're phonemes and they must be something.  Just plain old syllables?) but I will resist the urge.  RaPaDiDo!  Sorry about that.  It won't happen again.  Anyway, the pumpkins shall wait for the weekend thanks to a new Literary Blog Hop that I just discovered and feel the need to participate in as yet another means of procrastinating on my NaNoWriMo (FriLa!  PiGo!).  I'm actually quite excited about it because it can be difficult to find the "literary" bloggers out there and while I do love Harry Potter, I generally prefer to stick to the "literature/fiction" section of the bookstore that nobody's really sure what to name.  So, what is this Literary Blog Hop you ask?  The answer, in the words of its creators:

Welcome to the first ever Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase!
This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.

How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"?Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure. If your blog focuses primarily on YA, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance, or chick lit, you may prefer to join the blog hop at Crazy-for-books that is open to book blogs of all genres. (Note: if your blog does not fit the above qualifications it may be removed from the Linky list. If you still don't know if you blog qualifies, email us at

I think Soy Chai Bookshelf qualifies, even though it's also about food and writing and Harry Potter.  If you disagree… well, you can just eat my poo, can't you?  I could e-mail them to find out but that seems ridiculously snobbish especially since I already know that I like literary fiction and that's good enough for me.

This week's assignment:

Answer the following prompt on your blog: 
Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it "literary."

By now, I think it's pretty well understood that people like Jane Austen and Bram Stoker and George Eliot wrote "literature."  Therefore, I'd rather talk about somebody who's still kicking that's also earned that lofty word.  My first instinct was Margaret Atwood, but I think that three posts devoted to her in the last couple of months is enough, so instead I'm going to talk about Alice Munro, another brilliant Canadian writer, and her famed collection of short stories, The Beggar Maid.

The Beggar Maid is, unlike much of what we generally consider to be "classic," a collection of interconnected short stories.  It can be read as a novel - the same characters appear throughout and grow as the stories progress - however, it is not a novel.  Each story is complete in its own right and can stand alone and be read completely independently of the surrounding stories.  The writing itself, one of the most important determinants of the term "literary," is powerful.  Munro describes the mundane - a child stealing a bag of candy from her stepmother, a train trip, a first boyfriend - yet successfully makes these daily, relatively boring events come to life in her portrayals.  Rose, the protagonist, is as real as you or I, with the same wants and desires and secret longings.  Munro does an incredible job of making the quotidian captivating.

If you think about it, "literature" often portrays the daily lives of its characters; it's not about the action, but the people and the words.  This generally makes it difficult to summarize: The Beggar Maid is about what?  It's not about stealing candy or failed love affairs or a secret crush - that's not fodder for a book.  It's about the human condition, what makes us us, the beauty of a word.  The same can be seen in most of the great literature throughout history.  Magic and guns and intrigue are all well and good, but it's the honoring of the individual and language that make literature what it is, and it's what Munro has done in The Beggar Maid.


  1. Hmm .. haha. Well we certainly don't mean to be snobbish. Thank you for your rather indirect feedback, we've taken that particular section out of the post.

  2. Great answer. This sounds liek a book I would like.

    Rose City Reader.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I'm glad you liked Dracula. I'm now following you :)

    I've found it hard to get into collections of short stories, but The Beggar Maid seems like a good place to start.

    Sam at Tiny Library

  4. Munro is one of my absolute favorite writers--I did a post about her recently as part of my The Story on Thursdays feature...Her stories really resonate with me, and tend to stay in my head for years. Now what is Vegan MoFo? My daughter & are are going to grandmother's house (and sisters) and I am finding it really hard to explain veganism to my family!

  5. Ingrid- I'm sorry! I didn't mean to call you a snob!
    Sam - It is, largely because it can be read as a novel. Following the same characters helps with continuity.
    Bibliophiliac - I did a post about Vegan MoFo here: Veganism is a complete divorce from all animal products - a simple concept, though a lot of people can't grasp why it's a desirable lifestyle. I'll check out your post!

  6. I've never heard of The Beggar Maid, or that author! I'm discovering all sorts of new things to read on this hop ;)

    Love what you said about literature portraying the characters' daily lives. I think a lot of what I consider to be "literary" is the same.

    Hope you have a great weekend :)

  7. Interesting. Wish I knew more about Canadian writers. When I visited Toronto, I approached a bookseller about buying a book by a Canadian author that reflected Canadian sensibilities (I always try to do that when I visit other places) and the bookseller drew a blank.

    Hope you will stop by my blog now and then.

  8. Interconnected short stories appeal to me - Olive Kitteridge was a favorite last year. I've read Munro, but have not heard of this collection. I'm adding it to my list. Thanks!

  9. Alice Munro is amazing! I haven't Read The Begger Maid though. I considered using her in my post, but I would have talked about Lives of Girls and Women or Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. The latter title his a bit difficult to type repeatedly though.

  10. I like how you talked about the human condition. I think a part of why literature is so 'literary' is that it is hard to define.

    "it's the honoring of the individual and language that make literature what it is" - I really love how you defined that. Excellent post!

  11. I've not read anything by Alice Munro, so it was interesting to read your suggestion. Thanks for visitng my blog and commenting. This has been such a fun hop!

  12. Hi Jennifer,

    I'm passing through for a look at your books on the Soy Chai Bookshelf on the "Hop" I have yet to read this Munro, and will be sure to add it to my ever growing to-read pile!