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Literature finds its way onto the web

Update: June, 11/2008 - 00:00

Culture Vulture

(12-06-2008)

Literature finds its way onto the web

With so many titles crowding market shelves, readers have become overwhelmed and confused as to how to choose books that appeal to their tastes. Perhaps because of this, many readers are turning to online literature, hoping to find quick fixes for their literary wants. And this in turn has led writers to reconsider and reinvent the way they publish their works.

These days, many writers are posting their works online, becoming popular with audiences before going to print. One of Viet Nam’s top-ten literary critics, Nguyen Thi Minh Thai, talks about this new phenomenon.

These days, writers are posting their works on blogs and websites before sending them to print. Is this a new form of PR for literature?

I don’t think it’s a form of PR. The introduction of the blog has resulted in the freedom to write without having to worry about getting it printed. It’s an expression, and a way to immediately reach and receive feedback from audiences. It’s also fast, popular and easy.

This "online literature" spurs creativity and inspiration, while providing audiences with a variety of reading materials.

It’s also a way for writers to avoid long delays in the publishing process, and for readers to save time and money in book stores.

As a literature critic, what do you think about so-called ‘online literature’?

I’m open to this new phenomenon. Initially, I found it a bit liberal, and I personally don’t think it’s literature in terms of professionalism. It could be a kind of "volatile literature".

In my opinion, only a printed book that you can hold in your hands is a work of literature. I’m not sure that online reading can exhibit the same sort of life.

When I was 20 years old, my impressions of books differed from when I was 30, and even more so from when I was 40 or 50.

The more I read the more confused I became. I thought I would never be able to find the essence of literature.

But we should never take that for granted. If we do, online language will become a mockery of real literature.

I don’t think that online literature will last forever. The public probably accepts it as a "pret-a-manger" product of the Internet.

Is it undeniable that a lot of online literature is welcomed by audiences?

Yes, that’s true. It’s a remarkable achievement. But printed books are still the main form of entertainment. Online literature doesn’t stop at the Internet; whenever possible, these online books still go to print.

It doesn’t take me long to read the 27 chapters of Online balo by Nguyen Dinh Chinh on the Internet, but I like the feeling of a folded book when I read.

Do you agree that Viet Nam’s literature has taken on new trends?

Everything follows a trend, but we should be careful. Online literature is like a fast-food or a new trial product for a number of countries, including Viet Nam.

It’s normal for writers to want their works to be known by the public without worrying about the printing process. Of course, there was no such case for Nguyen Dinh Thi’s Rung Truc, which was kept in a drawer for 20 years before it was published.

It is said that online works haven’t made much of a contribution to the country’s literature, that they are just rags. What do you think about this?

It’s true. Online literature is spontaneous, so its contributions to the country’s literature as a whole are very modest.

The country’s reading culture has been in a lull for some time now; however, things are getting better, as students today are once again becoming more interested in books. What do you think about this?

But in such a mess of books, it’s what the students are reading that is most important. The students must pick up books simply beyond those assigned by their universities.

You have been working as a teacher, a journalist and a literary critic. What is your preferred nomenclature?

I don’t care how people address me. I have become the person that I am, and I am happy doing all these things. — VNS

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