Bringing Twitterature to the Masses

I like to think I am well-read, even as a blind flaneur who works constantly to negotiate access to books. When conversation turns to some obscure old warhorse from the canon, I like to joke that I didn’t finish the book, but I read the Classic Comics. Soon I will have another excuse. “Oh, sure, I read the tweets.

According to Ed Pilkington at

Is there no end to Twittermania? Last week we saw the social networking tool Twitter deployed on the streets of Tehran. This week, moving seamlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous, it is being used to aid the digestion of the world’s greatest literature.

Fans of the classics will either be delighted or appalled to learn that the New York-branch of Penguin books has commissioned a new volume that will put great works through the Twitter mangle. The volume has a working title that will make the nerve ends of purists jangle: Twitterature.

In it, the authors will squish the jewels of world literature – they mention Dante, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Joyce and JK Rowling – into 20 tweets or less – that is 20 sentences each with fewer than 140 characters.

The book is the brainchild of two 19-year-old first-year students at the University of Chicago who claim to be starting a cultural revolution from their college dormitory. Bashing their heads together one evening in their university digs, Emmett Rensin and Alex Aciman asked themselves what defined the grandest ventures of their generation, and best expressed the souls of 21st century Americans?

Pretentious, maybe. Precocious, certainly. The answer they came up with was double-headed. They identified high literature as a crucial pillar for any generation.

But they also latched on to Twitter, the website where users compress all of human experience into 140 characters. Twitter, they thought to themselves, epitomised the short attention span and info-deluge that defined the contemporary age. Read more

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