The Blue Bookcase host a Literary Book Blog Hop for blogs that feature classics and literary fiction. This week, the question for discussion is
Must all literary writing be difficult? Can you think of examples of literary writing that was not difficult?
This question ties directly into the book I reviewed this week, Beowulf. I enjoyed the story itself, but the language Grummere used in his translation was so difficult that it took away from the beauty of the work. I've listened to some samples of Seamus Heaney's translation and think I would have gotten more out of the same poem listening to less difficult, but still well-crafted, writing. The confounding effect of translators on a literary work is a difficult problem to avoid, since the translator has the often conflicting tasks of making the writing clear and conveying the style of the original. Therefore, I'll limit the rest of my answer to English-language authors.
Literary writing need not be difficult to be literary. I find the books of E.M. Forster, Willa Cather, and John Steinbeck to be clear and easy-to-read (links go to previous reviews). These writers sometimes slip into a lyrical style, but the images they project are crisp.
I appreciate the work of writers like Virginia Woolf, Herman Melville and William Faulkner, but I'm always reluctant to pick up another one of their novels, since it means I'll have to fight through difficult prose. I'm not opposed to the idea of putting in some work to unravel meaning from a piece of literary fiction, but I more greatly admire writers who can engage my intellect without breaking it first.