Of course it is hard to predict now, what word art will stand the test of time, to become a masterpiece, earning the right to wear the badge of real, true literature. I’m sure most of you shall agree, reality TV shows will not go down as our culture’s legacy and yet the low budget series are quiet popular and have created many a successful celebrity as well as made many people quite rich. So, what constitutes a piece of real literature? Does it need to be an antique? Can someone sit down today and start typing up, a ten to fifteen page, short piece, of real literature; finishing it, proof read it then send it off to the presses by next Thursday? And if so, who will decide? Who has the guts to declare, “Now, that’s, a piece of true literature!” Do the words ‘New York Times Best Seller’ carry the same clout of decades ago? And, is being a best seller, one of the prerequisites of being knighted, ‘Literature’.
Every age is its own worst critic. We enjoy the artists of our time. We support their gumption, laugh with them at their irony, cry with them through their pain. For our poets, painters, lyricists, authors are our voice! Our great artists make statements and take stands, which become our statements and our stands. A good song can outs a king. A play can bring attention to a wrong. Heck, we are relying on our artists more than anyone else to assure that our generation is remembered and remembered well. But, the majority of any art created in any age, is mostly commercialized art. The modern field of writing, for sure, is dominated by commercialists. With time, can some of the works which started out as commercialized writing transcend into being recognized as something more; perhaps real literature?
Is real true literature always snooty and uptight? Does it always have to teach us a lesson? Must there be a moral to the story for scholars to agree that prose is worthy prose? Must poetry enlighten or can its rhyme and rhythm simply be soothing to the ear? Can written dialog be simply entertaining conflict and jokes, humorous for no other purpose except to make us laugh?
Commercial writing is relevant! In today’s society, everyone writes to make money. An artist can’t avoid the so called trappings of notoriety; money and fame or be immune to the lure of the all mighty dollar. There is good commercial writing being created all the time that has the potential to rise above its peers, to touch society in a way that propels it to instant literary status. Every type, genre and category of writing has its good examples, bad examples and so-so examples of the craft. Quality of craftsmanship is what ultimately designates a writing piece to the level of literature. Nothing else really matters; popularity, depth, professionalism, technicality, sophistication, word length, none of these trump writing skill.
I personally have always believed that any form of diction has the same chance or right to be judged literature; from a line of graffiti, spray painted on the side of a falling down building, to a rallying phrase hand painted on the side of a tank, to a medieval sonnet, to religious hieroglyphics painted inside a cave. I believe advertisements can be deemed literature, if worthy. I believe letters, diaries, journals of both famous and lay people can be quite literary. News articles, magazine interviews when handled properly, all have potential to be stamped literature. I also believe there is far more junk being written today than literature. But, that is not meant to sound condescending or portray any disappointed with today’s writers, especially today’s creative writers. For I’m sure this has been the plight of every generation.
People write for many reasons. Some of the creations stand out as being special. These special works we deem literature. They are chosen sometimes by professors teaching at renowned institutes of higher education or by authority committees or because the general public has embraced them making them so popular that the Professors and authorities can’t ignore them. They all have one thing in common; many people agree there is value in sharing these particular works with the next generation. It’s up to the next generation to decide whether the same pieces will continue to hold enough merit that they should be passed down again and again, dissected and studied by generations to come.
Can a writer sit down this morning to write a piece of literature? I would hope every time any writer sits down to press pen to paper he/she is inspired to write something prolific. Yet, I’m sure most of the writings we put on a pedestal were not begun by their authors with the intention of someday being required reading at Yale University. Creative writers write because nothing else in this world will satisfy us like creating something of un-measurable value out of nothing, simply by arranging words on what was moments ago a blank piece of paper. Writers know they are the ultimate artists, who if they wish, can create all the other art forms; paintings, photographs, sculptures. Through our words, we can bring the experience of a live Beethoven concert to people miles away, over and over again for years to come. Writers can allow you to view and experience the mystery of the Mona Lisa’s smirk, at your convenience, while relaxing on your sofa, in your robe and slippers. Creative writing is man’s miracle and man’s blessing. Therefore, all creative writing is literature. Some creative writing is obviously just better literature.