Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Novel Departure

What of the novel in the digital age?

Is the future Tim Burton’s twitternovel, where anyone can contribute a line in the creation of a story that has the potential to involve millions of writers around the world? Is it the mobile phone novel, which has become a craze in Japan? Penguin has had a go at interactive storytelling, but the excitement surrounding that project was more to do with interactive novelty, than radical content.

At present, we play with our technological tools in search of a new literary art, but find ourselves lost somewhere between form and content. We know there is no sense in carving a longbow in the age of the sub-machine gun, unless we want it for quaint decorative purpose.

Is it time for the novel, as a form, to acknowledge the virtues of brevity? War and Peace was produced in a time when the only distractions were sex and alcohol. Our attention is now so fragmented that even the idea of producing a novel of 300 pages in length seems a little absurd. So how to go on? Twitter proves that you can be a philosopher, a wit and a journalist in 140 characters or fewer. Can you also be a novelist?

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