Writing entire books on mobile phones is not new. Japan’s been doing it for quite a while now and they even have a name for it – keitai shousetsu.
What’s new is using Twitter to write one, 160 characters at a time. The NY Times recently featured one published author who is actually writing a thriller on Twitter. As a student of old fashioned English literature, I must confess that it’s a bit odd to see writing framed by technology. Unlike the Guttenberg, which set writing free by making it easier (at the time) to publish and disseminate ideas, Twitter in particular emphasizes the latter but not so much the former.
Twitter and SMS weren’t made to communicate the nuances of language. That their truncated argot has in fact, for a new generation, it’s own nuances (the emergence of emoticons signifying more than otherwise meaningless juxtaposed hyphernation for example) is interesting, but can to me never come close to the beauty of expression from an author who deftly manipulates the language. And it’s not just Shakespeare and the Classics, even your run-of-the-mill Stephen King or Forsyth builds atmosphere through a style impossible to achieve through blocks of 160 characters.
Or perhaps for a new generation of readers, an impatience with longer, more reflective appreciation of texts (i.e. reading a book as a printed book, through devices like a Kindle or on-screen as e-books / PDFs) will manifest itself in the appreciation of this new kind of literature – a literature for commutes and multi-tasking, easily digested, easily forgotten.
I have lots of other thoughts about the emergence of what seems to be, either through keitai shousetsu or through thrillers on Twitter, new literary genres, but I’d be interested to know what you think.