21 Authors Write Twitter-Length Novels


21 Authors Write Twitter-Length Novels

illustration by Kelly Dyson via The Guardian


Of all the stupid things said about Twitter over the years, and there has been a deluge, the pervasive idea that nothing of value can be communicated in 140 characters is perhaps the most persistent misrepresentation. Either that or the one about how no one wants to hear every monotonous detail of your boring life all day; surprisingly, it turns out, we do.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. So does Twitter. And I’ve got 46 characters to spare after having sung that song of myself just now.

Or perhaps I should say the Twitter format presents the potential for evoking that sort of vastness implied in the line? Twitter might seem perfectly suited to the economy of poesy then, but keep in mind that poetry is for dorks. There’s literature to be found here nonetheless, and the Guardian was determined to water the fecund word soil by asking 21 authors to compose 140 character novels. Hemingway, of course, had the definitive word on the power of brevity with his six word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The results were mixed, with some successes, and a few steaming turds. Both good and bad, most do strain the definition of what you might call a novel though. A few examples:

Geoff Dyer

I know I said that if I lived to 100 I’d not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.

That comes the closest to encapsulating an entire story. Some tried more literally:

Charlie Higson

Jack was sad in the orphanage til he befriended a talking rat who showed him a hoard of gold under the floor. Then the rat bit him & he died.

Ian Rankin

I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you’d found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.

Rachel Johnson

Rose went to Eve’s house but she wasn’t there. But Eve’s father was. Alone. One thing led to another. He got 10 years.


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