Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

Twitter-ary Analysis

twitter_logo_headerStill not convinced that “Twitterature” is an actual art form? TIME magazine’s James Poniewozik has put together the most compelling analysis of Twitterfiction I’ve seen yet:

Like any other kind of literature, Twitter lit — or Twitterature, to borrow the title of a recent book that condensed literary classics into tweet form — has its strengths, rules and tropes. Twitter is pure voice, an exercise in implying character through detail and tone. Halpern’s inaugural @shitmydadsays tweet is so economical that it should be taught in writing workshops: “‘I didn’t live to be 73 years old so I could eat kale. Don’t fix me your breakfast and pretend you’re fixing mine.'” Instantly, we know how old Dad is; we know he has a fine-tuned b.s. detector; we know he is fond of pleasure and not of rabbit food; we can infer that his breakfast-fixing adult son has moved in with him. All in fewer than 120 characters, including quotation marks.

Because Twitter lit is immediate and telegraphic, it’s suited to social commentary. Because it’s first-person, it’s a natural for parody; fittingly for a service named for a bird noise, Twitter attracts mimics and mockingbirds.

And Poniewozik puts Twitter fiction into historical context:

The history of literature is the story of writers shaping their work to exploit technology. The popularization of the printing press led to the novel. The pamphleteers of the 18th century used self-publishing technology to become the bloggers of their day. Samuel Johnson’s epigrammatic, acerbic dictionary was a collection of proto-tweets […]

Read the full essay on

Related Reading:

Literary Partners