& experiment on the twitter


I know it’s not a new idea, that it’s been done – or at least tried – before, but there must be a valuable way of using the Twitter for fiction/literary purposes. Jennifer Egan, author of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad‘, famously tweeted a short piece of fiction for The New Yorker. Her ‘Black Box‘ took the form of, as Ms Egan put it, “a series of terse mental despatches from an undercover spy in the future”, and ran to 8,500 words.

As far as it went, it just wasn’t that novel.

The work was the product of a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and was tweeted at the rate of one tweet a minute for an hour every day on the New Yorker‘s Twitter-feed. So, a world-renowned novelist was in cahoots with, probably, the world’s best-known magazine for short-stories, and (more than likely) were fed into the Twitter by a staffer from the magazine, or quite possibly an intern.

It all sounds rather comfortable, if not the twittering of birds in a very gilded cage.

Ms Egan had, she said, been polishing the 140-character sentences for the best part of a year. So what we were presented with bore no actual relation to the fleeting and random nature of Twitter, but was a work of short fiction whose sentences happened to be, well, short. Why didn’t she make her foray into publishing on a social-media platform more experimental, I wonder? Surely it would have been more effective to have the tweets issued by the “undercover spy”, @lulu? [By the way, what kind of spy wouldn’t be undercover?]

Here is a snapshot of her notebook for what she might have called her project:



Little more than an elegant collection of haiku-like epigrams.

@projectXwriter, on the other hand, is a possibly vainglorious, and more than likely foolish attempt to inject a level of experimentation, perhaps even modernism into the Twitter feed. The short piece of fiction will run from 09 June to 09 July 2014, and all I can safely say at the moment is that it will comprise of a minimum of thirty tweets.

Why so coy?

Because I am not actually writing it.

Over the past month or so, I have been cutting out pull-quotes from newspaper articles, and dumping them in a pile on my desk – they are a random aggregation of news over that time period, and cover sports & literature, business & cinema, local & international news, the arts & lifestyle … you get the drift. The one thing they do have in common, though, is that they must reflect my state of mind over that period – which begs the question as to why I was drawn to these particular quotes, and whether they could be collated into some form of narrative.

It is, simply, a Burroughs-style exercise in the cut-up for the 21st Century.

These are words, phrases and sentences stripped of their context that I am going to attempt to create a new context for.

Wish me luck.

And follow the experiment on Twitter @projectXwriter.



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