Oops! A Twitter misstep in the book world

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It sounded like such a cool idea. Short story writer and novelist ("The Ice Storm") Rick Moody created a short work of fiction designed to be "micro-serialized" on Twitter between yesterday and tomorrow. What could go wrong? A lot, apparently.

"Experimentation is how you learn but sometimes the lessons are tough ones," notes industry newsletter PublishersLunch. The chief lesson in this case: "Long-form narrative may not belong on Twitter."

Apparently the trouble started when literary journal Electric Literature (the publisher of the story, which is entitled "Some Contemporary Characters") enlisted 20-some partners to tweet the story simultaneously. The intent was to maximize distribution of the 153-Tweet tale but the result was cacophony.

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PublishersLunch wrote: "The unexpected barrage of Moody quickly set off a stream of angry and mocking tweets from other users yesterday – and Twitter is an excellent instrument for spreading negative feedback quickly." PL quotes bookseller Arsen Kashkashian who wrote, "Is Rick Moody trying to sabotage what's left of his career in 1 day. Worst use of Twitter I've ever seen. Please, please stop the madness."

LA Times book blogger Carolyn Kellogg suggested the experiment left receivers feeling "like he or she has been attacked by clones. No fun."

But she wasn't ready to abandon hope for future success for the format. "[S]urely [Twitter] is a possible venue for telling short stories," she wrote, "and Electric Literature is to be commended for splashing in with this one. But it shows that Twitter as a storytelling form hasn't been fully exploited – yet."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/MarjorieKehe.

(Chapter & Verse readers are reminded that they can access the Monitor’s Books podcast either at iTunes or by clicking here.)


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