Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Sunday, September 27, 2009

collaboration

Speaking of being Against Social, let me comment on this post from the publisher of Seven Stories Press:

One reason that we’re beginning our push to blur the lines between print and electronic publishing with Hwang Sok-yong, however, has to do with Mr. Hwang’s reputation as a pioneer in popularizing online fiction in Korea. Mr. Hwang wrote his 2008 novel Hesperus as a serial on his personal blog at popular Korean portal site naver.com. The novel — a Catcher in the Rye-tinged coming of age story about a young man who slowly breaks free from the stultifying education system of Korea in the 1960s — was followed religiously by Internet-savvy young people throughout the country, many of whom left comments on the story as it was unfolding — to which Mr. Hwang responded each day before continuing the novel. It was a rare and appropriate opportunity for a writer and publisher to use the Internet as something more than a novel method of distribution or publicity. The book is about the experience of youth breaking free from conventional thinking, whatever the generation. The Internet allowed the generations to speak to one another, informing and broadening the content of the book.

Reading this, I’m reminded of the academic bureaucrats who want college students to be able to evaluate their professors on a daily basis, and who expect those professors to constantly restructure their classes in light of the constant feedback. (Yes, there are such people — I have met them.) I can imagine some few circumstances in which ongoing interaction between author and reader during the writing of the book could be a good thing . . . but I wonder how many of the works we most admire could have been produced within such a regime.

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