Reality Hunger #2

Posted on 25/10/2010


(photo courtesy)

David Shields wants more people to write “books for people who find television too slow”.

In an age that’s hungry for information, news and reality, traditional novels can’t keep up. I’m not convinced… but I like his angle on the world.

What I think:

Being a literary professor, Shields’ main interest is Fiction. And being such a big fan of reality naturally jars with Fiction’s main premise (make-believe). As well as all the artifice, his other issue with traditional novels, i is that they’ve been done to death. Instead of tirelessly reproducing the same kind of thing, over and over (and with increasingly ridiculous narratives), he thinks writers should go for a bit of “cross-formal experimentalism”. Good on him!

Even though he’s writing about writing as an art form, there’s something refreshingly contemporary about this idea. Essentially, he’s after a literary mashup. Now (as in the early 21st Century) couldn’t be a better time for this sort of thing:

Freed from the page.

With more communications forms than ever before, information can be carried in ‘000s of ways. Peguin’s published work on Google Maps and serialised it on Twitter. In Japan, keitai shosetsu are short novels distributed over by text message. Want to publish your work on paper napkins over several months or send people on a physical treasure hunt to find the scattered pages of your book? Do it.

Forget the editor

Digital publishing doesn’t need editors. With printers that can produce and bind a book in 10 minutes, and millions of weblogs/ tumblelogs/ microblogs, there’s an ocean of self-produced, self-edited and self-promoted work to choose from.

Was that one author or two?

Crowdsource your words with a team of writers, from anywhere and with any writing background. One of the most impressive, albeit least tactful, things I’ve read has been the Chris Akabusi Sex stories blog . It’s a dead simple format so anyone (with a dirty sense of humour) can join in. Someone’s even managed to get it into print!

“Akabusi strode into the room like a Titan with a clown face”

Word thieves rejoice!

Ownership of words is both a crude and necessary part of commerce, but it needs rethinking. “Plagiarism” can be brilliant creative tool, assuming it’s not just a “copy+paste” from Wikipedia. Parody, reworking, and tributes all rely on another person’s work to give them a reference point and the starting material. From there the author/ director/ designer can take these ideas anywhere. Copyright law needs rethinking, but until then there’s no reason not to push the boundaries.

Final thought: we should count ourselves lucky to live in an age when freedom of expression is possible, but also limitless in the form it can take.

Disclaimer: No, I’ve not actually read Reality hunger (it’s on my reading list), so I’m not really interested right now in what the  book explicitly has to say. I’ve based this, as with Reality hungry #1, on Sean O’Hagan’s review of this work because it’s darn-well interesting. I’ve reread the review several times, and it’s raised a different set of questions on each occasion. Long live reviews, great time savers that they are.