"Just once, I'd like to have encountered real literature."
"Is it literature?"
"I Think So."
"So whats literature?"
"Literature is where you read a book and feel you could put a little mark under every line because it's true."
"Because it's true? I don't get it."
"When every sentence is simply right. When it reveals something about the world. And Life. When every phrase gives you the feeling that you would have behaved or thought exactly the same way the character in the book does. That's when its Literature."
Crazy - Benjamin Lebert
Personally I find that to be a pretty good description. It casts no aspersions to genre or type or setting. It simply makes a statement. It's a statement I can agree with. It goes a long way to explaining why, for the most part, I don't read a lot of books that would be considered "Literary". If I can't identify with the protagonists.. The book doesn't touch me. It's the same reason I have difficulties with books that feature Anti-Heros or even Villains as their protagonists. If you make the character too murky, too ill feeling.. I can't identify with them. I can't feel for them or care what happens to them. I lose interest.
I've read through a lot of abysmally bad books because I like the characters. I've given up on a lot of really good books because I don't like the characters. Benjamin Lebert's 'Crazy' was both a good book and had good characters. It was a short novel, barely 200 pages, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. This section though was what really stuck out in my mind. Two teenage boys sitting on a train discussing Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. I knew it was exactly how I would have behaved, exactly how I would have thought. Enough so that, while I didn't deface my book by underlining the words.. I copied them here to share.