May 13th, 2011 / 2:03 pm
Author Spotlight

Twitter MFA

In which we do a close-reading of a Tweeter’s Tweet draft and assess its tone, theme, synecdoche and narrative arc, among other things. Today’s Tweet draft was written by Colson Whitehead. Join us in two weeks for a discussion of a Tweet draft written by Drew Kalbach.

The Tweet draft:

This is one in a series of linked tweets about a small West Virginia mining town. Revolving narrators, characters in common, bittersweet.

It is not this Tweet draft alone that awes us, but the notion that Whitehead is mining the depths of his past in order to present to us a courageous work of Tweet. Whitehead, who hails from the small town of Manhattan, West Virginia, located in the Eastern Panhandle, is a Tweeter most capable of pulling off such a masterful rendition of the linked genre: the story-in-Tweets, an updating of the classic novel-in-stories genre we have seen so successfully employed by writers since Sherwood Anderson. Of Whitehead’s ambitious project, Hart Crane, who also has a highly visible social media presence, recently Tweeted: “@America should read @colsonwhitehead’s Tweets on her knees. They are an important update in the feed of her consciousness.” (Of course, it should be noted that this is Crane’s transparent ploy to get retweets from both Whitehead and America.)

And yet, for all of our excitement at the prospect of reading Whitehead’s linked Tweets about a small mining town, we know that if Whitehead actually follows through on this project, it will be disastrous. What makes this Tweet draft so inspiring is the promise of something unpromisable: the foreshadowTweet. Whitehead, in a postmodern turn, shows us that he too is aware that the Tweet stops here. Its meta-nod opening, the ‘This is one in a series,’ establishes the significance of the Tweet qua vehicle of the story. By signifying a story, he tells a story. We believe that Whitehead has blasted deeper into the purest vein of story-telling, one that makes ludicrous the coarse attempts of practitioners of so-called ‘flash fiction’ and the hilariously named genre of ‘hint fiction.’ Here he seems to call their bluff. I dare you, he says, to even think about telling a story now.

After reading this Tweet, you’ll wonder what’s next for the art of fiction.

Colson Whitehead in front of his home in Manhattan, West Virginia.

Included on every 30 under 30 Tweeters to watch list, and beloved by his 50k plus followers, Whitehead is certainly a critic’s darling. He skillfully juxtaposes formalist grammar with soliloquies on k-holes. We’d like to see Whitehead take some more risks in his manner of punctuation, to go more ‘experimental,’ to really ‘e.e. cummings the shit out of’ his Tweets. In turn, we’ve taken grammatical liberties with some pre-existing Tweets from the Whitehead Tweet Library and Farm, eliminating the punctuation chaff. Below are the results:


If you can read this, you are aging better than The Strokes.


if u can read this u are aging better than The Strokes


As a dictator, I often worry about making our nation “all about me,” but these posters of my face turned out swell, so let’s put ’em up!


as a ‘dictator’ i often feel [negative emotion] about making our ‘nation’ all about me but these ‘posters’ of my ‘face’ turned out ~80% ‘swell’ so let’s put em up


Just asked a fire hydrant if it “had any Grey Poupon.” Then I laughed and kept walking. Anyway, gotta go teach a class.


Just aksed a fire hidrant if it had any Grey Poopon???! :) Then I #Lmao and kept walking. Anyway, gotta go teach a bitch <3


On the next “Twitter Account Verifiers: Nobodies Unit,” Henson and Ricks fly to Pensacola to talk to a dentist.


oN ThE nExT “tWiTteR aCcouNt VeRiFiErS: nOboDIeS uNiT,” HeNsoN aNd RiCkS fKy 2 ——> PeNsAcOlA 2 taLKk 2 a dEnTiSt!!!!!!!

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  1. Anonymous

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  3. Becky Tuch

      This is brilliant and hilarious. I am tweeting. 

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