The Rise of the (Cellphone) Novel

The first thing I saw in the morning was the New York Times headline (edition for the Austrian daily "DerStandard") "In Japan, Purists fret at the Rise of the Cellphone Novel".

In case you don't know - a typical cellphone novel is composed on phone keypads by young women, very often residing in Japan - and they are wildly successful among young people, the manga comics generation. Characteristics of these novels are (of course) very short sentences and tales of love, horror and deceit. Of last year's 10 bestselling novels in Japan five were originally cellphone novels. And there's a lot of money in this.

Literary critics are discussing if cellphone novels will kill "the author" and further diminish literary quality. As one can imagine, the character development, for example, is not very extensive, as is the plot as such.

One of the stars of the scene, Yoshi, said writing novels on cellphones was like playing live with a band, because of the possibility to respond to the reactions of the audience on the spot.

Now why are these novels only successful in Japan, so far? Or will the trend finally fan out in Europe as well? Maybe it is a combination of the love for cellphones and the tradition of haikus, these very short verse forms?

I will certainly ask my students today about their experience with cell phone novels. Short texting would attract them. And short reading even more.


julian said...

Thanks for that, I was just recently looking for an example of how mobile phones/technology could be affecting genres.
Do you know if anyone has done a more academic piece on this kind of thing?

francessa said...

Hi Julian,

no, sorry, haven't found anything academic so far. But I'm always searching and will let you know if something turns up.

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