Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A modern epistolary tale, or lazy journalism?

The tale of a modern life. Shana Greatman Swers  a modern woman, lives out her life on facebook, possibly a little more than most, but it's not all that unusual after all. What is unusual is this Washington Post story. I wonder is this article a modern take on the epistolary tale?








Or is it just lazy journalism? A journalist who decides to sling together facebook updates, because the updates are the story, and call that a story?  I'm not sure. It is an interesting article. A gripping, yet ultimately tragic tale. That I don't think suffers from the facebook update presentation. But then I use facebook regularly. I wonder if it makes as much intuitive sense to those four people left who aren't on facebook yet? Would they even bother to read the article?


I do love the epistolary novel. Done well, they're one of my favourite styles. I think it works well in the standard, classic format (although I did only manage to get about 5 pages into Clarissa, I think that will have to be something for when I retire). I've read modern ones that consist merely of post-it notes on the fridge door (which I loved). I have drawn the line thus far in reading novels written in texts- I think they're for young people, much like doof-doof music. Is this article the next stage? A natural progression? I really don't know. The format made me very uneasy for some reason, even though I really enjoyed reading the article, and was incredibly moved by Shana's story. 

4 comments:

Hilary said...

that is a very moving story Louise - I think presenting it as facebook updates rather than just a story isn't lazy journalism - it takes the reader much closer to what happens and how it developed gradually. I was sorry not to ba able to read all the comments!

Evelina (Fanny Burney) is a great epistolary novel - earlier than Clarissa I think and not as arduous.

Kath Lockett said...

Wow....it affected me..... very tearful now.

Facebook might be a newish communication tool but in reality her sad story was able to be communicated to far more of her family and friends than any other method. The hope, concern, bewilderment and pain is as evident as it would be if it was via a phone conversation.

Putting my hard arse hat on now - I don't know if I could read an entire novel done like this and remember having a fair bit of difficult trying to write part of a novel (way, waaaaay back in 1999) that never really 'worked' when most of it was a series of linked emails.

Hilary said...

facebook is an excellent way to condense a story - here's an example: http://www.angelfire.com/art2/antwerplettuce/hamlet.html

Louise said...

@Hilary. It certainly is a very moving story. The death of a young mother is always particularly tragic. I was moved too of course, but just wasn't sure about the style. It worked well for this one, but do we want to read stories this way every month, every week, every day? Thanks for the Evelina recommendation. I'll try to get to it soonish (or sometime).

@Kath. Facebook is being used as a newspaper sometimes isn't it. Births, deaths, marriages are all announced through facebook now. It is a convenient and easy way to get the word around. I do wonder at the more serious and sad events being announced this way. Although noone could have ever anticipated the outcome of her pregnancy- but it is life (and death) of course. Always possible.