The Novel as Serialized Text Message?


| 1/4/2008 5:17:06 PM


Have u heard? Mobile phone novels are selling phenomenally well in Japan. According to a recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald, five of the country’s top 10 bestselling novels in the first half of 2007 were written on mobile phones, selling an average of 400,000 copies apiece. These novels, known as keitai shosetsu, may be edited when transferred to the printed page, but they circulate on cell phones via the orthographic luxuries of a small, digital screen: Abbreviations and emoticons abound in each installment of the narrative. And not surprisingly, terse dialogue supplants scene and character development.

Both Gizmodo and ReadWriteWeb—two blogs that have chimed in on the subject—emphasize the lurid melodrama that characterizes these stories. For instance, take Koizora (“Love Sky”), which recounts the travails of a teenage girl who is gang-raped, becomes pregnant, and then miscarries. The cinematic adaptation is already something of a success in Japan.

Regardless of content, I think this is a promising trend. I now have a market for the epic poem I composed as an art project on 37 BlackBerries and 3 upside-down calculators. (If you’d rather have the clean version, you don’t have to read the calculators—I only used them to write the word “hell,” which, as we all know, is “1134” flipped on its head.)

Michael Rowe



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