Monday, March 2, 2009


I can't tell yet if Twitter is going to be like Facebook, a thing that seems superfluous and creepy until it seems inevitable and fundamental. (Or cellphones, for that matter--I remember when I used to take mine out sheepishly and try to answer it discreetly out of sight of my grad-school colleagues who were smoking on the Dey House porch. I felt like a pompous tool with it. This was 2001.)

So far I have found Twitter's potential exceeds its actual pleasure yield. Personally I am more in the school of "Entertain me with your pithy wit, my friends" than "Tell me every move you make" (or "Sell me every move you make.")

But I'm starting to figure out how to make it useful and not just a thing I look at on my iPhone when I'm standing in line. Poetry Magazine sporadically sends thought-provoking little lines and images (Living is a meatloaf sandwich. --John Ashbery.) Today I learned via Publisher's Lunch that
Deal for DFW's PALE KING from "tentative" to official; a partial work of "several hundred thousand words" plus notes, outlines, and more
Which led me to the full explanation via AP. I feel both excited and sad about it. I wonder if reading this incomplete novel will be an amazing illumination of David Foster Wallace's writing process, or puzzling and impenetrable, or just heartbreaking. Or all of the above, more likely.

And in the world of living writers, my friend Pauls Toutonghi is going to be serializing his short story "Tourism" via Twitter starting today, here. Already off to a banging start!
1. AMELIA EARHART DIED BEFORE IMPACT. She saw the shimmering water and the way it opened upwards. Her eyes were open.

The tank was almost empty; Howland Island invisible. And so she stopped her own heart. She could feel the sun on the back of her neck.

As far as Twitter-born stories go, Douglas sings the praises of Dame Jetsam, a fictional character created on Twitter around whom a whole storyline and world have sprung up--it involves a shipwrecked lady and a fusion sensibility of olde-tyme + modern vernacular--with other people joining in as Sir Flotsam, Doctor Detritus, etc. Their emerging adventures are collected here.

But of course, the medium is bound to also suffer some Totally Unnecessary Twitter Narratives. A while back
I Twittered (tweeted? I don't feel that verb) about a Mad Men binge I was on, and was instantly friended by the surprisingly web-savvy "Betty Draper." "Betty Draper" churns out frequent updates, which unfortunately follow vapid 1950s housewife cliches that anyone could manufacture based on a cursory familiarity with 1950s stereotypes, and that in their period-fetish glee sail completely over what makes her character on the show so tense, complex, and sad: "Put a casserole in the oven. I wonder when Don will be home." Perhaps it's just a testament to verisimilitude--even a brilliantly-crafted fictional character can be dull and overshare.

(It turns out that "Betty Draper" also maintains a blog of similarly surface-level artifact fetishism, if a bit anachronistic--a Sterling-Cooper business card with a web address?! I'm fascinated by the fanfic phenomenon. In a way, maybe these inconsistencies and oddities are more interesting than a seamlessly-executed homage.)

I feel inconclusive.
I like the challenge of filtering and distilling an idea to the most compact form possible. But it isn't easy, and while my handful of Twitter friends turn out funny and interesting tidbits, most of the random Twitterers I've browsed through are beyond boring, oversharing their tedium into the ether. Seriously, people, who needs to know your laundry plans? (Or the status of your fictional casserole?)

Few of my friends are on Twitter yet, and I imagine it will get more fun when (or if!) more of them (you!) get on board. Holler when you arrive.


Jeremy Tolbert said...

Great observation...I completely agree with you. I just joined Twitter a few days ago and I am still unconvinced where the pleasure lies. Whether its more functional than pleasurable. Holler back if you see me.

AnnMarie said...

I don't know what this Twitter thing is (honestly).

But, did you see this weeks New Yorker? There is a pretty great article about David Foster Wallace.

"One of the great pleasures in reading Wallace is to watch him struggle to give the reader her due."

There is also a piece of fiction "Wiggle Room" in the issue.

I guess now I'll have to look into this Twitter business, I'll let you know if I fall in love again.

I didn't discover Wallace until he died, since September I've read three books of his short stories and one book of essays-I'm in love. I owe you, in part, for that.