Charles Dickens, of course, master of the serialized novel.

Charles Dickens, of course, master of the serialized novel.

 

I know of people who are writing books on their blogs, or turning their blogs into books, and I have seen people telling stories, somewhat arduously, through Twitter.

A book published in 2009, "Twitterature," retells 80 classic pieces of literature in tweet-sized bites. ("Twitterature provides everything you need to master the literature of the civilised world, while relieving you of the burdensome task of reading it," its promotional copy reads, and I shudder. I do. I shudder.)

The University of Michigan Press is doing something a little different. They have two perfectly good, well-received books ready to go, and they are offering them up free, a chapter a week, on their Facebook page. All you have to do is friend them. You'll get access to a new chapter every week, through Labor Day.

"They're beautifully written, but by authors that people might not recognize right off the bat," said marketing manager Heather Newman. "So for us, this was a way to experiment with giving people a taste of the books before they bought them -- as much or as little as they liked. We also wanted to see how people would respond to Facebook as a medium for this kind of posting. If it goes well, we'd definitely consider doing it again with other works."

"Faithful Unto Death" by Becky Thacker (not Becky Thatcher, as I first misread), and "A Spell on the Water" by Marjorie Kowalski Cole, will be offered beginning Monday on the University of Michigan Press Facebook page. Cole is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction for her earlier novel, "Correcting the Landscape." She died in 2009 and so perhaps has no idea that her book is being serialized on social media.

Thacker  announced on her webpage that serializing her novel (which is about murder by arsenic in 1890s Michigan) feels like something Dickens would approve of. And she's probably right; many of his novels, beginning with "The Pickwick Papers," were serialized in magazines. I can picture him on Facebook, with dark and pithy status updates. (And actually, he does have a page!)

Both novels are still available in traditional format, of course. For those of you who think Dickens is a little too modern for your tastes.

 

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