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    Devolution of the Classics – Twitterature
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  • Published: Jun 29th, 2009

twitterature2Don’t have time to read Shakespeare?  To busy to get through Ulysses?  Schedule too tight to get through Dante?  No worries, you can get the hyper cliff notes version from Twitterature.

What is Twitterature?  Well it’s from the root word Twitter – a micro-blogging site that allows you to speak your mind, discuss your views and give your opinions in 140 characters or less.  With such a small window, you’ve got to be brief, to the point, and it helps if you’re clever with the written word. There are thousands of people who are becoming experts at the art of the tweet.  But nowhere has the twitter concept been taken to the reductio ad absurdum as when two University of Chicago college freshmen sold their book idea Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less to Penguin.  The book, scheduled for release this fall is part of project created by Emmet Rensin and Alex Aciman.  According to reports from the LA Times and Galley Cat, the Twitterature website (which now seems to be under construction) stated that it is “a humorous retelling of works of great literature in Twitter format.”  Wait did you hear that sound?  That was my head hitting the floor as I passed out in total disbelief.

Rensin and Aciman came up with the idea while sitting in their college dorm.  They claim it was an ‘epiphany’.  It rather sounds more like a brain fart to me. They created this ‘novel’ idea by first asking themselves ‘what was the grandest venture of our or any generation?’  They came up with two things; literature and Twitter.  Literature is an obvious one to me.  Twitter, they reason, ‘More than any other social networking tool, Twitter has refined to its purest form the instant-publishing, short-attention-span, all-digital-all-the-time, self-important age of info-deluge that is the essence of our contemporary world. As such, it demands our attention – and gotten it.  So what could be better than to combine the two? After all, as great as the classics are, who has time to read those big, long books anymore?

Well, Messers Rensin and Aciman – you had my attention for 140 characters, ‘had’ being the operative word.  Who has time to read those big, long books anymore? Do I really need to comment on this?  Come the fall, I’ll be sitting in my chair, by a nice cozy fire, reading a big long book –

6 Responses to “Devolution of the Classics – Twitterature”

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  1. Bob
    on Jun 29th, 2009
    @ 10:24 am

    Why so angry? The material you quote is obviously meant to be ironic. This is clearly a humor book — “a humorous attempt” as you quote the website — not an serious attempt to replace literature and put out your fire or anyone else’s. Who could possibly take this literally …

    Wait … maybe your miffed reaction in the absence of actually having read this yet to be published book (fun to bring out at a party, I hope) is also meant humorously.

  2. Maria Lokken
    on Jun 29th, 2009
    @ 10:31 am

    Bob – I suppose you have a point. I believe I took some offense to “who has time to read those big long books anymore.” It seems to me there is not only a growing need for instant information, but that information has to be brief. Makes me wonder – are we giving the future generation a chance to use their creativity and imaginations – when everything has to be short and concise.

  3. Sunny
    on Jun 29th, 2009
    @ 11:59 am

    I’m not on the whole Twitter bandwagon. It takes too much energy to condense my thoughts into 140 characters. I’d rather not have to edit every single thing I want to communicate. So that puts me on the fence with this one. Sounds like “Just add water and mix” for an ‘instant’ re-telling of the classics. Yet, one can hope that it will be fun (and who couldn’t use a good laugh now and again) But if it is meant as a substitiue… well that’s a whole other story.

  4. azteclady
    on Jun 29th, 2009
    @ 1:00 pm

    What surprises me is that they sold the book–it’s been done before. Check out the long standing Books a Minute website.

    As far as the “who has time to read” bit… I just re-read Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison last week, and had to laugh at how things are the same now as they were in the late 1920’s–a character dismisses a whole genre of literature without having read it himself, because “he read about them in the paper.”

    Now that ‘the paper’ is an obsolete concept, many are turning to twitter, and getting the same ‘quality’ of information from it, I would wager.

    (full disclosure: I don’t do twitter)

  5. orannia
    on Jun 30th, 2009
    @ 12:01 am

    Twitterature sounds like cliff notes for the 21st century!

  6. Kris Kennedy
    on Jun 30th, 2009
    @ 1:23 pm

    I agree 100%. Perhaps it *was* intended as self-effacing humor, but if so, I suspect the target audience will not get the joke.

    Every technological advance has made it easier to do things faster, which somehow gets equated with ‘better,’ and that’s changing our brains. When it is constant & prevalant, the electrical & chemical pathways in our brains get rewired in fundamental ways. Not for the better, I suspect. I guess we’ll see the results over the next few decades.

    I think there’s value in people being able to pay attention over the long haul (say, an entire novel), to hold a thought over time, turn it over, work it through, and be changed as a result. Snippets are catchy and quick, but they tend to have the same sort of staying power, too.

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