I’ve published an essay at Entropy about my frustration with the idea of “difficult” literature.
I get it why this word is used so much. Some books can be read much more quickly than others, some require you to stretch the resources you’ve got or discover new ones. I understand all that, and there are many different kinds of reading experiences, but I really despise people calling books “difficult.” To me, that’s a very lazy shorthand for what they really want to say about these books, and I think it does everyone involved a disservice. It scares people away from great literature they should be reading, it creates dichotomies where none actually exist, and it’s just not an interesting way to talk about these books.
I should say that I’ve often been guilty of relying on this crutch, and I’ve started making a concerted effort to get this word out of my writing (that was part of the impetus for this piece). The essay deals with some other ways we might start talking about these books, plus why we’ve come to use this term and what we actually mean when we say “difficult.