Will e-books change the structure of novels—you know, “medium is the message” kind of stuff? Some say yes.
Now here’s the same question about another technology, cell phones, and the effects of their existence on the plots of novels and other writings.
In fact, with zillions of phones already around, we’re talking fait accompli.
Meanwhile consider How Cell Phones Would Change the Plots of Famous Books (Katherine Brooks’ hilarious essay in the Huffington Post). Then extrapolate.
High Schoolers reading Romeo and Juliet today probably have a hard time imagining a world in which two people have such catastrophically frustrating communications problems. "Juliet, send the man a text before you initiate a complicated fake death scheme," a present-day Mercutio might suggest. "Drop him a DM. Toss over a Snapchat."
Cell phones have made it damn near impossible to remember a time when you couldn’t immediately communicate a pressing need or a fleeting idea. Now, Juliet would be all, "romeo, gonna fake my own suicide. brb." And he’d be like, "k "
But would cell phones really have changed the fate of the Capulets and Montagues? Cell phones can roam and Twitter can go dark and Snapchat might not update. Or *gasp* there’s no more data left on the plan! And before the hypothetical end of Internet-age Romeo and Juliet, we’re still left with two dead lovers and a super self-satisfied Shakespeare.
And on Moby-Dick:
“yo call me Ishm@el!” our narrator texts exuberantly to Captain Ahab at the book’s beginning. The two met through a crowdsourced whale-labor website, where bored Millennials sign up for short stints on the starboard. It’s far from a digital detox, though. The Pequod is equipped with the latest in smart technology to make short work of the White Whale’s elusive habits. A GroupMe with the captains of each fleet lets Ahab triangulate his prey’s location in minutes. “You guys are way better at decision-making than my friends!” exclaims Ishmael. “We can totally apply this to choosing a Friday bar. The ocean has so many lessons.”
Read the whole essay in HuffPo, then have fun, if you’d like, and indulge in similar fun in TeleRead’s comment section. Speculate away!
Fodder for discussion in cell phone book clubs?