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Book Review: Twitterature by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin

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I never thought classics could be so funny. And I never thought I would appreciate Twilight so much.

Twitterature is exactly what you think it is when you first hear the word: literature via Twitter. Imagine some of your favourite classics (and some less favourite ones that made you sweat in class): The Catcher in the Rye, Macbeth, The Iliad, The Three Musketeers. Now strip them of all the extra fluff, and image these stories told with only the bare essentials – as well as in 20 tweets of 140 characters or less. It gives for some hilarious results.

There are also a couple of contemporary titles. Believe it or not, the seven books of the Harry Potter series were tweeted in 20 tweets. Yes, you read that right – all seven, in 20 tweets. It wasn’t one of the best efforts in the book, though for a diehard Potter fan such as myself, it did make me smile a couple of times as I read @NotoriousHP tweets.

There were surprisingly deep reflections summed up in some of the 140 character or less tweets. For example, another contemporary title included in Twitterature was Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight, as tweeted by @TheSecondSexist, in which this one tweet stood out: “@YoungGirls: If a guy is hot enough, it’s OK if he’s also a blood-sucking creep. Completely subordinate yourself and accommodate him. Worth it.”

Fortunately, Twilight is as low as the authors went on the ‘quality of writing scale’. Another contemporary title is Ender’s Game, which concludes with this tweet: “The only way to repent for my crime is to tell the aliens’ story. I will become the tweeter for the dead. Also, I finally hit puberty.”

In more classic literature, we have The Three Musketeers, which starts off with this gem: “It’s time to go off into the world and follow my secondary dream and become a Musketeer. Apparently Jedis don’t actually exist”.  @AliceInTheSkyWithDiamonds tweets: “At a tea party with a crackhead hat man. He’s a schizoid. Insanity is part of his public image. After all, he put ‘mad’ in his name”.

What’s a little sad about this book is that it often feels like a lot of potential was lost as some of the tweets seemed almost harried and put together quickly by people with only a superficial knowledge of the books in question. It thankfully still came up to an interesting read, and hopefully a second Twitterature of better quality will soon follow.

The other thing that I didn’t find quite as amusing was the blatant & vulgar sexual tweets. For it’s one thing to have fun with the classics and quite another to desecrate them so disrespectfully.

I also found it rather annoying that so many of the tweets included profanities and vulgarities common to today’s society. While I understand that Twitterature is about making these classics a lot more accessible to those of us who either don’t have time to read or who read them and don’t understand much because of the writing style. However, it’s still literature; making an effort to tweet in the higher quality language resembling that of the book rather than the quite common, swear-word infested way we have of talking today would have made more sense in sharing the book’s essence while still managing to stay funny.

However impressive the titles tweeted in Twitterature is, don’t plan on purchasing it as a replacement for all your Coles notes for your English Literature papers. Quite the contrary; the more you know the book that is being tweeted, the more you are going to be able to enjoy the tweets. And if, like me, you didn’t study many of these books but only read them, you might be surprised by some of the information that stands out in a series of concise tweets on the book.

While this book isn’t a must in a book-lover collection nor in a comedian’s collection, it is a great book to take to a get-together and laugh over with a bunch of friends. Hopefully there will be a take 2 in which more effort will be put into crafting a series of tweets that at the same time strip stories to their essential, make it accessible to the larger public, remain amusing while at the same time retaining the quality of writing that made them beloved classics in the first place.

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  • http://DamianDaily.wordpress.com Lisa Damian

    I hadn’t heard of this book until your article, but it does sound like a good party conversation piece. I’m new to Twitter myself and just getting the hang of it. I can’t imagine having to cover full length novels in 20 tweets or less. Having read most of the books covered, I agree with you that you would need to know the nuances of stories first to fully appreciate the humorous tweets. The ending tweet for Ender’s Game that you mentioned is pretty hilarious.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    I’m glad you liked the review, Lisa, and if you ever pick up the book (or even just take a peek at it at the bookstore), I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

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