Just under a couple of weeks ago, novelist David Mitchell published his latest short story. Nothing unusual there, we hear you cry – except he did it entirely on Twitter. The Guardian nicely collated his tweets, still keeping the format that makes the nuggets unmistakeably tweets, and I had a quick nosey to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s not that I particularly think it’s a bad idea, or as some overly worked up people have cried that it sparks the end of the novel, but I just think it spills over into something other than the short story. I’d imagine it was almost haiku like having to conform each section to 140 characters (Mitchell doesn’t dissect tweets in the middle of sentences so each tweet is an entire section in its own right). And when there’s 280, that’s some 392000 characters that have to be perfectly divided up – I’d imagine that gets boring.
I suppose you could say I feel like this like I feel about some poetry – it’s a lovely, quirky idea and I enjoyed reading it, but the thought of trawling through a thesaurus trying to find a word that means ignorant but with 2 less characters, nah, probably not for me.
But maybe I’m being a bit cynical – it is pretty skilful after all. It also adds a playful twist on reading by using social media – the physical act of reading (i.e. not what might happen after, like book clubs, discussion, passing on of novels) is not what you’d traditionally call social, so I think there’s a nice fluidity going on. What the Twitter short story lends itself really well to is the present tense, and whilst sometimes I find author’s usage of this a little forced, Mitchell pulls it off really well. And it’s actually not a bad story – there’s a couple of stand out tweets for me which really are quite beautiful in their own right – see below
You can read The Guardian’s collation of Mitchell’s tweets here. What do you think of the idea of a Twitter short story? Do you think Mitchell was successful with his?