Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Here's a thought -- or two ...

A colleague and I were talking yesterday about how Internet reading differs from traditional reading. Obviously, it's less linear, which is why large chunks of prose seem less suited to Internet posting than snippets that get to the point. But also, when reading online, you're likely to click on a link, and maybe click on another from the site you've linked to. You may click on an audio clip. Or a video clip. It may be some time before you get back to where you started -- if, in fact, you do get back. Then there's e-mail.
All of which got me to wondering when this is going to be exploited fictionally. E-mail plays an important part in Peter Straub's most recent novel, In the Night Room, but where's the epistolary novel in the form of e-mail. Epistolary novels were all the rage in the 18th-century, when lots of people wrote lots of letters. Well, lots of people are writing e-mail. Most of it may be inconsequential, but a good fiction writer could surely do something with the form.
And what about a narrative using online techniques -- links and clips that lead the reader along the narrative path? Maybe published as a CD.


  1. This is sort of tangential to your subject, but perhaps of interest. Rupert Holmes is bringing out a book in March, "Swing: A Mystery," which will include a CD that will provide clues to solving the mystery, or so the publisher (Random House) says. (Holmes is the clever fellow behind "The Pina Colada Song" and "Remember WENN" on the AMC cable channel and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," etc.) Thing is, will people want to go to this trouble, using a CD while -- or after -- reading a book? Are book people too wedded to the book, and never the twain shall meet? Or will newer generations break those rigid boundaries?

  2. And wasn't/isn't the novelist Robert Coover involved in Internet-type writing at whatever university he teaches (at)? I don't think I could take it. When a book is DONE, it's DONE, and I want to know it's DONE. I don't even like director's cuts in movies. They brought out the revised "Look Homeward, Angel" (under Wolfe's lame original title, something like, "O Lost"), adding about another book's length to it (more Wolfe material that got cut) and what's the point?

  3. Of course, it has been pointed out that the medium is the message. Which means in the modern technological world that what medium you use to broadcast your message shapes the nature of that message. TV means commercials. Movies mean visuals. E mail means lack of formality and hasty responses. Telephones mean intrusion of privacy and big bills. Newspapers mean temporal data and subtrefuge. Magazines mean T & A. TV too, and movies. And they all seem to mean propoganda.

    How to exploit a medium to its best advantage? Mary Shelley couldn't have written her book, nor Bram Stoker, without the letter or the diary. And I have found use for that antecedent in my novels as well.

    But I think e mail and blogs are not the stuff that literary dreams are made of, anymore than I think an artist's letters, to Theo from Van Gogh or from James Joyce to his brother, make literature -- although they may make fascinating reading.