Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Epistolary Novel Reborn

A while back I posted on facebook about a blogged novel that a writer friend was working on called MURDERER'S MOM ( The writer, Jan Bear, is in my critique group. I'd watched her developing her ideas for this book over the past year or so, but when she decided to dive in and start writing it one blog entry at a time, online, it leapt off the screen with a life and immediacy that it never had before. The immediate past tense vision and the intimacy of the blog format were the perfect fit. When I posted about Jan's work, another friend, opera soprano Jennifer Wilson ( made the insightful comment that this form hearkened back to the old epistolary novels of bygone years (eighteenth century?).

Jennifer's comment set me to ruminating a bit on the blog form in general and the way in which it seems to have revived the voice of letter-writing, albeit with a twist. Blogs have the length, contemplative tone, humor and individuality that used to be part of the lost art of letter writing. The difference - we now write not for the highly specific audience of one, but as if our letters were already intended for posterity, cleansed of all mundane details of daily life (one hopes!) and raised to a higher level by drawing conclusions about our world, engaging in humorous observations and waxing vaguely philosophical.

Perhaps email and facebook and twitter have irreparably altered the epistle as a literary form. Or perhaps it has merely shape-shifted into a new guise.

I wonder ... are there any courses or books examining online content as literary form, the way we examine other genres? What defines it? What are its limitations, its strengths?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing about this. All of it. I agree that the blog has taken the place of letter writing, and if no one is examining it, they should do so. I'm going to check out the links you've mentioned.


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