Essays,  Random

On contemporary literature

I’m reading Treasure Island for A Victorian Celebration and… I don’t like it. I expected a lot of treasure things going on, but it is a story of buccaneers and pirates with a mischievous little boy fooling around (as you can see I’m angry at a book). The only thing that makes the book a little bit more pleasant is Long John Silver (and he is the bad guy). So, I asked myself: what would you like to read right now? And the answer was contemporary literature.

Crime and detective novels, feminist novels, Margaret Atwood, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, English plays from the 20th century, Kate Atkinson, bring it on! I want all these things, I need these books and authors. They make me happy (especially Atwood, I adore her) and they make me think, ponder, reflect on things and, in general, a better reader. For a long time, I took all these authors for granted: I like them so much… how could they deserve as much attention as Dickens or Austen? I thought they did but most people seemed to disagree because their works had not lasted enough to prove they were masterpieces or that they dealt with stuff universal enough to deserve praise. So, after my course on 21st literature this year which as amazing, my opinion about contemporary literature changed. I loved it already, but I had no idea there could be so much behind these wonderful books. Also, I love the idea of the authors being alive, tweeting, sharing information with them, seeing their websites etc. And you can interact with them!

But, one of the things I like the most about contemporary literature and the authors is that they are a real inspiration to me, not only as a reader but as a human being too. They are full-time authors or literature professors, but they work hard and you can see them working hard which is a quality I really appreciate. If you follow Margaret Atwood on twitter you see her wonderful charity work related to birds and supporting other Canadian authors. Eleanor Brown actively supports new writers and talks with her everyday life with her fans (we have had long chats on snow) and even recommended me a great book on writing. How wonderful is this for their readers? I see it as an incredible opportunity to meet the person behind the text, someone who had a normal life but sat down to write and created a work of art that you let into your life and affected you in a positive or negative way. I think it’s truly inspirational.

So, basically I just felt the need to put into words how I am feeling at the moment regarding books and reading. I miss interaction with the authors, I miss knowing that they are somewhere in the world, sitting at their desks, writing or creating something new. I miss the modern treating of universal feelings, the modern and postmodern approaches to life and existence.

With this I’m not saying I do not like classic literature (you all know I love 19th century literature) but, if can call it this way, the epiphany as Joyce would say, of this senior year is that contemporary literature is an opportunity to discover new ways to approach life and the world but also, to meet the people behind them. It’s not only about us and how we relate to their work but also to the chance to interact with the authors and discuss and learn from each other. There are more people out there balancing life and work, having trouble with technology, fighting for literature to regain the power it once enjoyed, people fighting diseases, watching House MD, Grey’s Anatomy or Bones. People who also want to connect with others and are able to do so thanks to their works of art!

Oh, I can’t wait to start one of the many contemporary books I have in my desk, waiting for me! Do you also like exploring contemporary literature? If you do so, what do you think of the authors?



  • Ellie Warren (@patchworkbunny)

    I think variety in reading is important. Not every book I read is great literature but often those are the ones that are just escapist fun. I don’t read as many classics as I’d like but there is so much fantastic contemporary writing around, it’s hard to choose.

    • Elena

      There can be variety into contemporary fiction and not everything is good (the same as not every 19th century novel is good). I agree with you it’s hard to choose, right now I have like 6 contemporary books here waiting for me! 🙂

  • She

    I love both contemporary and classic literature for different reasons, and I think they are both equally important. I think it’s interesting to look at the idea of the modern classic– those novels that are too old to be considered contemporary and too young to be considered a classic– and how the lines blur between what is considered what.

    As a sidenote, I’m sorry you’re not enjoying Treasure Island. I adored it, so I hope it gets better for you.

    • Elena

      Well, I hope it gets better too. I love that you brought that idea about the modern classic. Mmmm I would probably consider them contemporary literature but kind of landmark works (i.e Virginia Woolf, James Joyce). Thanks for the idea!

  • Belle

    I get the same feeling when I’m reading the classics. I just love my contemporary literary fiction and mysteries so much. I have really stayed clear of the classics these last years while in college because it has given me a good hunk of classics to read. I worry that I’ll never be in the mood for Austen or Bronte or any of the others again. Yikes!

    • Elena

      Oh, Belle that was exactly how I felt for many years! I think literature programs should include contemporary literature as well, it is what is being written now by people we may know.

  • amanda

    You know, I’ve never really been much of a contemporary fiction reader (outside of mysteries). When I was growing up I read my mom’s old books and then just kind of got hooked on 19th century novels, and that’s really been my sort of non-mystery mainstay. I’ve realized in the past year or so that there are so many great books out there that I still haven’t read, covering pretty much the entire 20th century (not to mention 21st), so I’m trying to correct that, gradually. I still have a hard time picking up something that’s only a couple years old or less, mostly because the books that are generally considered good seem to have so much hype attached that I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed–I’d rather wait for the buzz to die down and then decide if I’m still interested.

    • Elena

      You mention something really interesting: buzz around books. My personale experience is that they can be either really good or they are commercial works. This buzz did not allow me to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” til a few weeks ago and I really resented it. It is actually a good book (apart from a very successful one). I trust bloggers a lot with contemporary and modern fiction… it is what works for me actually, hearing about others whose criteria I respect.

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