Thursday, December 10, 2009

tweets in the 19th century?

Every morning around 6 am I get a special email. Courtesy of The Telegraph: an online novel by Alexander McCall Smith. It is reminiscent of the old serial novels. One chapter a day. Just enough to keep you engaged and hanging on for the next installment. No cheating and reading further ahead. No reading on and on until you fall asleep and disrupting the flow of the story by an inopportune stop. The chapter ends and you wait...

I consider it my bedtime story. The most fun part is that you can even have the chapters read to you by Andrew Sachs - he who was Manuel in Fawlty Towers.
And if you haven't experienced any of Alexander McCall Smiths' books, I am here to tell you he is a delightful read.

The first serial, The Corduroy Mansions began a year ago and ran for 100 chapters. This story, The Dog Who Came In From The Cold, is book two and has been running since September. You can find the story here.
Novel serialisations are an old art form, probably best and most famously done by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. And last week, I heard that there is an online publication of Wilkie Collins' A Woman In White. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, it is being reproduced in its original form every week. The story first appeared as a serial in a Charles Dickens' periodical and is available to read in its "original tightly compact form of 19th century typography" or, much easier on the eyes, as a pdf that can be delivered right to your inbox every Monday. It will take until August 22, 2010 to reach the end of the gripping tale.

We are already up to Chapter Three, but you can catch up quickly by going here
and you can subscribe by emailing Paul Lewis at
AND there is MORE!
You can even follow tweets of Wilkie's life as his novel was being published during 1859-1860!
How much fun is that? Well, what are you waiting for? You have to get reading.


  1. I have read many writers started that way years ago in newspapers.

  2. oh the serial installments - very cool

  3. Thanks for the tip! I will have to check this out. I am so far behind on my reading!! Ack!!

  4. I like Alexander McCall Smith's books, particularly "The Sunday Philosophy Club" - very subtle and gentle, but sharp underneath!

    Enjoy your serials!

  5. That's really cool! Wonder if you can upload it to an iPod? It would be great for walking on the "dreadmill". Gonna check it out.

    I was listening to NPR in the car the other day and it was about Charles Dickens and how he changed A Christmas Carol around when he did performances of it.

  6. Betty: you're welcome. I hope you find it enjoyable

    Gail: yes, I imagine it was cheaper than printing a book at the time, if you only had to pay a penny or so for the periodical - and you would keep buying once you were hooked!

    SueAnn: and the added bonus is that it will sit in your inbox (or in my case a special folder) untril you are ready to read it.

  7. Geewits: I enjoy these timeline reproductions online. The same idea with Pepys Diary, which I am also reading and with WWI Diaries of an English Soldier (on my sidebar)

    Gilly: I'll have to check out that one, too

    Susan: one of the things Sandy M S said in an interview about writing this way is that the story is not finsished, so it can be altered according to the readers' reactions. he did that with Corduroy Mansions, which ultimately led to this one with the dog.

    That thing with Dickens makes sense, really.

  8. So, you have to read this online? Can I get it in the form of a penny paper instead? I'm still old timey enough to want to do my reading off paper. Very wasteful, I know. It's a very cool idea though - getting a story in your inbox every morning. A melding of the old and the new.

  9. XUP: no problem - you can easily print it off, then take the paper version with you to curl up on the chesterfield with some gl├╝wein in front of a roaring fire...

  10. Oh thanks for the links Violetsky... I love audio books... I just finished listening to "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens..

  11. I'll have to check this out. I love McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies Detective series.

  12. Gwen: I don't have an ipod, but this worked just as well - I didn't want to leave the chesterfield anyway! isn't it nice to be 'read to'?

    Mary: I have now read all of them, so this is one way to get my fix!

  13. No I don't have a ipod either... I listen to them when I am in the studio which is about 99.9 percent of the time I am awake... you're right, being read to is a total luxury!!

  14. Thanks for the tip, Violet. I'll be listening to all those chapters soon.


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