“The golden September sun warmed the earth with one last sigh of summer, the air crisp and brash and bright.”
– Rosalind Noonan, One September Morning (2009)
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BOOKS ON MY NIGHT STAND
Twitterature by Alexander Aciman & Emmett Rensin
By no means is this 2009 book a new or recent phenomenon, and it spoofs literary fiction rather than adds to its ranks. But it’s fun. And for a reader whose attention span is shrinking, what could be shorter than a classic work in 20 tweets or fewer?
“Twitterature,” as described on the book’s cover, summarizes the classics “for the twenty-first-century intellect.” It works because classic fiction is mostly about tragedy, which should ultimately be spoof-proof. A classic should stand up to not only the test of time, but also the modern habit of viewing things through an ironic lens.
So here’s Hamlet (username: OedipusGothplex), my favorite tragic prince: “My royal father gone and nobody seems to care. Mom says to stop wearing black. STOP TRYING TO CONTROL ME! I wish my skin would just ... melt.”
Here’s Crime and Punishment’s Raskonikov, the most morose character I’ve ever had to read: “It’s hard being a poor student – lots of work, crappy room, and I have the ugliest hat this side of the Urals.” Later: “I’ve got it. Rather than accept financial aid from my friend, I’ll murder an elderly money-lender in cold blood. Why? I’m not telling.” Oh, sure he’s not. After a dozen tweets: “I think the coppers are starting to get suspicious on account of my acting LIKE A CRAZY PERSON WHO KILLED AN OLD WOMAN.” Later still: “Another day in the old jail cell. Everything seems pretty bleak. Other prisoners hate me, and there’s nothing much to do.” And finally: “Oh hey, it’s the New Testament. I’d like to suggest that this book is going to change my life, but that’s really a story for another time ... ”
This book will certainly save me from feeling like I have to actually spend time on Candide or Swann’s Way, Eugene Onegin or The Sorrows of Young Werther. Don Quixote is hilarious: “People say that sleep deprivation, isolation, and too much reading have made me loopy. But I say nay! Nay!!!” And Heathcliff sounds much livelier than he does in Wuthering Heights: “A family has found me, and they keep calling me gypsy. Have I stolen their wallets yet? NO.”
True to contemporary language use, the tweets are rife with swear words, so this is not a book for the sweet-natured. But it’s all in good fun. Besides, it’s totally in character for Sir Gawain and Huck Finn to exclaim, “WTF?” :-)
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
LitFic Challenge: 140 characters in 140 characters
Inspired by reading Twitterature, I came up with this “140 characters” game. Here it is in brief (of course):
Think of a character from a novel or short story. It doesn’t have to be a classic, but the more serious and tragic the story, the more fun you can probably have with it.
Give the character a username. Writing as this character, summarize his/her story or persona or conflict in as few tweets as possible. How many tweets you’ll need to post depends on how easy or hard it is for others to guess the character.
So the object for players is obviously to guess the character based on your tweets. When we reach a total of 140 characters (characters as in fictional persons, not the elements of sentences), I’ll tally up and announce the winner.
Sound like fun? I hope so. I’ll start with the first character. As soon as you can guess who it is, post your answer to the forum, and send in your own character tweets!
Literary Fiction Editor, BellaOnline