When Anna Burns won the Booker for her novel Milkman, there was much applause and criticism. Her book threw up the question of readability. Is great literature necessarily difficult?
Sam Leith explores the layers of difficulty in a book- it really depends. It is not necessarily an authorial flaw or snootiness that makes a novel hard to fathom. It could be the difficulty of format or theme. If the reader is unfamiliar with the author’s milieu that presents another kind of difficulty. Commercial fiction is tailored in such a way that the reader need only focus on the plot while in literary fiction there is a deliberate attempt to slow things down.
Let’s not assume that challenging work is like some sort of joyless high-fibre diet…
Leith lists some impossibly difficult books as well. A very easy-to-read story on the impossibility of comprehending some kinds of literary fiction.