Book Review: A Side Dish of Literature, Please
6:23 PM, Jan 13, 2010 • By KATHERINE EASTLAND
The latest dose of literature for the snarky smart set is here. Its title? twitterature. This brief book sums up over eighty works in the Western canon in "twenty tweets or less," each one comprising, of course, no more than 140 characters.
Classics tweeted range from Beowulf to Madame Bovary, Lady Chatterly’s Lover to the Canterbury Tales, Lysistrata to The Waste Land. And for good measure, pop culture gets a twittering home, too: There’s Twilight, the Harry Potter books (1-7), and The Da Vinci Code. Several sample tweets are available here on Penguin’s site for the book.
Though the book might seem novel, we’ve seen variations on this theme before—CliffNotes, comic book retellings of great books, such as Albert Louis Kanter’s, or of various philosophies, etc.—and each variation has its own intention. Some are made in the sincere hope of making the classics cool, others are made as practical study guides, and some are made for sake of having smart fun while pinning a few jaunty images to a plotline.
But twitterature, partly to its credit, is tongue-in-cheek. The book toys with the classics—a fair reminder that they aren’t sacred or inerrant—and pokes fun at Twitter because, really, it’s obvious that Tolstoy and Twitter don’t mix. It also parodies well the voice of many microbloggers (which is a voice ripe for parody, as illustrated in a print piece by our own Andrew Ferguson). Consider this tweet by prince Hamlet, aka OedipusGothplex: “2bornt2b? Can one tweet beyond the mortal coil?” Or this one, from The Great Gatsby: “"Some dude is standing on the bay with his arms up looking at a symbolic light. The Midwest didn't have so many metaphors! What a CREEP!"
No, twitterature isn’t being marketed as an aid for understanding the books it cuts to fit twitter’s 140-character-long bed of Procrustes. It’s merely for those who are familiar with the classics and want a good, snarky laugh. But to what end? In making fun of both the new and the old, and doing so with scant engagement with the classics, what does this book stand for?
Recent Blog Posts