As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been struck by Alex Juhasz’s pronouncement at the Re:Humanities conference that we must learn what it means to write for an audience that is permanently distracted. In response, I put up a Facebook post: “We need a rhetoric of the caption. A hermeneutic of the aphorism. Haiku as argument.” My Provost at Messiah College–known for thorough and intricate argument–left a comment “I’m Doomed.”
Perhaps we all are, those of us who are more Faulkneresque than Carveresque in our stylistic leanings. This latest from GalleyCat:
R.L. Stine, the author of the popular Goosebumps horror series for kids, gave his nearly 49,000 Twitter followers another free story this afternoon.To celebrate Friday the 13th, the novelist tweeted a mini-horror story called “The Brave One.” We’ve collected the posts below for your reading pleasure.
via R.L. Stine Publishes ‘The Brave Kid’ Horror Story on Twitter – GalleyCat.
Ok, I know it’s a silly reach to put Stine and Faulkner in the same paragraph, and to be honest I found Stine’s story trite. On the other hand, I do think it’s obvious we’re now in an age wherein shorter prose with bigger impact may be the necessity. Flash fiction is growing, and we can witness the immense popularity of NPR’s three minute fiction contest. These forms of fiction, of writing in general speak to the necessities of an art of the moment, rather than the art of immersion. Literature, and prose in general, is ALWAYS responsive to material and cultural forms of its own moment, and I think prose that is short and explosive, or prose that pierces beneath the surface of the readers psyche in a moment only to spread and eat its way into the unconscious when the moment of reading is long forgotten, is mostly likely the prose that is the order of the day.
BUT…Stine certainly doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know a lot about Twitter fiction. Is there any really good stuff out there on twitter–as opposed to flash fiction written in a standard format which I know more about? Or is it all carney-style self-promotion or unrealized theory at the moment?
[And what, I wonder, does this mean for the future of academic prose as well? I’m a late comer to Twitter myself, but I’ve been a little fascinated with the academic discourse that can occur, but more on that some other time.]
Word length by itself has never been a virtue, unless it serves a larger purpose. Great writing is often long, but when a truly fine writer produces something lengthy, it isn’t because he or she is rolling around in extra flourishes, Latinate words and complex sentences just to waste other people’s time. At least, that’s the case for the rare, truly gifted individual, not for most of the rest of us.. Even among highly trained academics, most of the writing that gets done isn’t usually even close to effricient. Perhaps any restrictions on length imposed on academic writing, whether they come from Strunk and White or the bitter necessity of getting through to students who live their lives with Bluetooth implants, can be viewed as a corrective, long overdue. I’d suggest we all try taking one nice, juicily long paragraph we’ve written, and try fitting it into a tweet. Might do us good.
Agreed. Best assignments I think I had in college and grad school focused on cutting down and being more concise.
Pete, do you follow Teju Cole? He’s the author of the novel Open City, the novella Every Day is For the Thief, and his recent project is a series of “small fates” on Twitter.based on the fait divers written by Felix Feneon, “novels in three lines”–short ironic summaries of news stories. He started out writing “small fates” of recent Nigerian news stories. He is now writing them on news stories about New York from 100 years ago. He describes what he is doing on his website here: http://www.tejucole.com/other-words/small-fates/ You can follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/#!/tejucole
I’ve seen you mention him. Not familiar with his work.