Serial Tweets

When I read that Pulitzer Prize winning author Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad) was serializing a short story via Twitter, I admit I was dubious. I could not imagine having a story delivered to me in 140 character chunks.  As she declared in an interview on NPR, Egan may love the “severity of the form” and the attendant challenges it poses, but I cannot help but feel that a story—even a short one—should be immersive, generous, enfolding.  I doubted that I could find the room to inhabit 140 words at a time.  Moreover, it smacked of theoretical undertaking, fresh-from-the-lab synthetic hybrid, like the once-hyped hypertext novel (with links leading off every which way, the text is indeterminate! Cool!) than a red-blooded, forward-moving narrative.


Nevertheless, I duly signed up for the Twitter feed, and was actually pleasantly surprised. While the koan-like style of the ruminations of a futuristic female spy took some getting used to, Egan found a felicitous relationship between function and form.  In fact, I liked it so well that when realized I could go directly to The New Yorker, a physical copy of which was sitting on my non-virtual couch, and read the whole thing, I abandoned Twitter entirely, proving that when it comes to reading, I have little patience or restraint. This may be less an issue with Twitterization than serialization.  Reading is one of the few areas in which the price of instant gratification—a bleary-eyed morning, a procrastinated phone call, couscous rather than rice with dinner—is relatively low.


Have you read or experimented with stories created especially for a digital medium? What is your experience?

2 Responses to Serial Tweets

  1. D. A. Hosek says:

    I thought Egan’s story told via powerpoint (Great Pauses in Rock and Roll Music, I think), was an adventuresome choice, although ultimately it felt more gimmick than success. But she’s clearly looked at pushing the form of the story before and I’m guessing she’s been developing her skills.

  2. Kim says:

    When I was a Twitter neophyte, I tweete a “fake autobiography” based on a writing class assignment–write a short story based on chronological events. I enjoyed doing it, but at the time only had about 7 followers. I’d be curious to know if those 7 are still following the person who who parlayed an award-winning fourth grade essay on patriotism into a multi-published effort and lost an ex-poet lover in a haiku incident.

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