I just found out about a new trend in books that makes trashy romance novels with Fabio on the cover look like the best thing to ever happen to modern literature.
They're called "cell phone novels" and, for now anyway, they can only be found in Japan, written in Japanese. While I would like to think that it'll stay that way, it's probably only a matter of time before someone decides to try it in this country, and the English language will be abused in an effort to make money off of sub-literates and people who get a hard-on for every cultural trend that the Japanese manage to spew across the Pacific Ocean.
Cell phone novels are written entirely on cell phones, using typical text message jargon: abbreviated sentences and those silly little emoticons that have no earthly right in a sentence.
According to an article in The New York Times, nearly all cell phone novelists are women in their 20s who go by one-name monikers like "Mika" and "Rin," and nearly all of the novels they write are about -- what else -- sex and romance, but sans Fabio.
It's not the subject matter of the new genre that bothers me, it's the loss of sentence structure in the interest of extreme brevity, which I feel amounts to butchery of language -- any language. I'm not alone on this. According to the New York Times article, many older Japanese are offended by the use of the word "novel" to describe the works produced by this generation of writers.
Use of this unique writing style calls for the sacrifice of some elements found in most novels: character development and plot complexity, to name two big ones. I find it difficult to understand how so many people can get caught up in choppily written, predictable stories about two-dimensional characters.
Mika, the author of last year's No. 1 best seller in Japan, a cell phone novel called "Love Sky," explained in an interview why her readership prefers this new genre over traditional novels.
Among other things, she said that, "They don't read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand."
Originally, they were only available to be read online, or more commonly on the LCD panel of the phone itself. Then, trend-conscious Japanese publishing houses took notice and decided to turn the most popular stories into actual books.
According to The New York Times, five of Japan's 10 best sellers in 2007 were none other than these cell phone novels.
There is a positive aspect to the cell phone novel trend. Chiaki Ishihara, a Japanese literature expert who has studied the emerging genre, told The New York Times these young writers may not have gotten into the craft of storytelling if it weren't for their cell phones.
"It's not that they had a desire to write and that the cell phone happened to be there," Ishihara said. "Instead, in the course of exchanging e-mail, this tool called the cell phone instilled in them a desire to write."
That I think is pretty cool. The next step should be a switch to a writing method that doesn't cripple a writer's ability to fully utilize the possibilities that language provides. In at least one case, that has happened.
Last year, Chaco, a young author who got started on her cell phone, decided to switch to the computer. The reason for the switch was, according to a representative from her publisher, "because of writing on the cell phone, her nail had cut into the flesh and became bloodied."
Since her decision to give up the cell phone, Chaco's publisher says that "her vocabulary has gotten richer and her sentences have also grown longer."
That's what I'm talking about.