The writers of literary fiction are beginning a pilgrimage from an esoteric "hyperspace" back to traditional literature models, the Deseret News book editor told a group of teachers gathered for a literature seminar sponsored by the newspaper.
Jerry Johnston, addressing a seminar taking "A Look at Literature" in the Salt Lake City Main Library, told about 25 teachers Friday that literary writers are realizing they can't treat writing like modern art.During the daylong meeting, teachers heard about the history of literature and book design, and talked with an author of children's literature. They also toured the library and a local publishing house.
During his discussion, Johnston traced the 300-year-old tradition of modern literature to Cervantes and his novel, "Don Quixote," and the personalized writings of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.
In the 1930s, writers like James Joyce and William Faulkner began taking literary fiction into a type of "Star Wars" hyperspace that leaves readers lost and confused. For the past half-century, readers have had a difficult time curling up with a work of literary fiction in front of a large lamp and a hot cup of cocoa.
At the same time, the readership of popular fiction, which sticks to traditional models, has grown.
"Modern writers came almost to the point of writing for each other. They have been in a self-contained little world, while the traditional world is expanding," Johnston said. "There is a little swing back into the mainstream. They've realized you can't treat writing like you can painting."
Richard Firmage, a graphic artist and award-winning book designer, said that while the roots of modern literature may date back 300 years, the legacy of book design dates back to 300 A.D. At that time the "codex" or flat book was designed to bind together pages of animal skin.
Book design was highly regarded during the Christian era as monks drew detailed designs into books preserving holy writ. Then as now, the design of a book helps create a feeling about the work and conveys certain messages to the readers.
Because books have always been viewed as something of value, Fir-mage does not see electronic computer books soon replacing bound volumes.
"I don't think books will be replaced by something that is not tactile," he said.
In addition, Barbara Williams, author of 40 children's books, discussed her writing with the teachers.
Teachers also got a look at how books are printed and bound during a tour of Publishers Press, 1900 W. 23rd South. "No wonder textbooks are so expensive," commented one teacher after seeing the complex processes that go into making a simple picture.