Some context on nineteenth century serial novels

The Pickwick Papers

Today, we study nineteenth century novels as whole texts, and as a result we don’t think about how they were originally read and written. Novelists, for one thing, wrote on deadline. When Dickens produced The Pickwick Papers in thirty-two page installments, it wasn’t because he preferred thirty-two pages to thirty-one or thirty-three, but because that’s how many pages the Fourdrinier cylindrical paper-making machine could impress at once. Serialization also came to shape plot itself: the end of chapter cliff-hanger (which could be called the “to be continued” effect) was invented to ensure that today’s readers would be tomorrow’s readers as well.

That’s from a week-old piece in n+1, and while I haven’t had much of a chance to poke around the magazine yet, it’s intriguing and I look forward to doing so.

The essay is actually about television and the serial drama (which grew out of the serial novel discussed above). It’s very long — but it also brings up about six genius points. I highly recommend it.

(Image from Flickr user perpetualplum under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. I feel I should also disclose that I have never read The Pickwick Papers.)

Happy Towel Day!

Douglas Adams

Today we celebrate Towel Day to honor the brilliant Douglas Adams. Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and various other fantastic books, died in 2001. Considering that “The answer is 42″ constitutes half of my Facebook religious views, I’m fairly certain this counts as a quasi-religious holiday.

Even among my readers who are unfamiliar with his work (for shame!), I’m sure many (journalists, students and others) can appreciate this quote of his:

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by." — Douglas Adams

So raise your glass to the great Mr. Adams, take a deep breath and remember: Don’t panic.

(Portrait courtesy of

Everyone complains about the weather (ledes)

A rainy Athens from under a smiley umbrella

… But nobody ever does anything about it?

Despite the sunny weather outside, I’m going to write a quick (and kind of funny) tale of two ledes from today’s Post.

On “Alumni flock to campus for reunion, share ‘cultural spirit’ “:

The sporadic rain did not discourage more than a thousand black Ohio University alumni from flooding into Athens this weekend for their alma mater’s largest organized reunion.

On “Relay raises funds in hope of a cure”:

Despite stormy skies above, participants of Ohio University’s Relay for Life 2010 “Coloring the Campus Cured” donned their multi-hued shirts and walked the track at the Athens County Fairgrounds to stamp out cancer Friday.

Maybe we should lay off the weather ledes for a while. I think we’re overdosing.

(Image: smile, baby! from Flickr user pangalactic gargleblaster, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License)