The Doorbells of Florence is a “blook” of short fiction by Andrew Losowsky, in which each story is inspired, and accompanied, by a photograph of doorbells in Florence. It just won first place in the “fiction” category of the Lulu Blooker Prizes. A blook, by the way, is a printed book whose content was originally published online, usually in the form of a blog. Losowsky refers to his stories as “flicktion” because the photographs and stories first appeared on Flickr.
Lulu, if you haven’t noticed, is a company that facilitates this kind of publishing – a sort of vanity press for these modern times. Except unlike the vanity presses of yesteryear who left you with a basement full of unread copies of your completely unsellable novel (which you happily paid to have printed), Lulu is a “print on demand” service.
I like it because there’s no waste, aside from the time wasted by hundreds of people who go through the process of turning their blogs into books only to find that nobody aside from their mother and the person who’s stalking them has ordered a copy.
But clearly there are some blogs that are worth bookifying or (blookifying, as it were). Witness the YULBlog 7 party a few months ago that coincided with the launch of three printed books from local Montreal bloggers (all from Hamac-Carnets, which is neither a vanity press nor a “print on demand” outfit). And according to this BBC article from March 2007, “works of genuine literary merit are growing out of the ever-expanding blogosphere.”
I’m particularly attracted to The Doorbells of Florence because I like photographs and I am fascinated by literature that draws upon images. Also, it is exactly one year since Martine and I were in Italy. While there I had noticed the beauty of the doorbells in Florence (as well as the other Italian cities). I even photographed some, such as this one, in Florence:
…and this one in Venice (on Flickr).
But there’s a downside to the popularity of The Doorbells of Florence. Apparently, this idea of writing short fiction from photographs has really caught on because of its success. The BBC article I mentioned above claims that people are using the technique in writing workshops, and have adopted the word “flicktion” to refer to any fiction inspired by photographs.
That neologism is unfortunate because the concept behind it is not a new idea – people have used photographs as the inspiration for fiction for ages. But that word, “flicktion,” reduces it down to a Web 2.0 fad. Six months from now writing “flicktion” will seem passé, and in a year’s time no one will dare even attempt it.
That’s too bad, because it’s something I’ve been wanting to do. I have a small stack of photographs that I dug out of dusty old boxes the last time I was in Nova Scotia. Old family photos from the 1940s and 50s of remote relatives now dead, and unknown to those still living. But they are interesting photographs of mysterious people with hidden stories. I’ll likely never know the real stories, but perhaps I can honor the images by making some up. But I’ll have to wait at least three years, until “flicktion” is not only passé, but forgotten.
A man and a woman walking in the rain. We cannot and may never see their faces. They walk beneath an umbrella, stepping smartly away from us. The rain that falls around them is barely visible – recognized more by the sheen on the umbrella than by the actual shape of its descent. A warm rain – or cold. A summer rain – a winter fall of snow. All these are possibilities, but there is nothing here of certainty – only away. That is what we see. They walk – they direct their whole attention to departure.
From You Went Away, by Timothy Findley.