Read Twitterature Online

Authors: Alexander Aciman


BOOK: Twitterature
Table of Contents
“The classics are so last century.”—
The Guardian
“Sincerest apologies to Shakespeare, Stendhal, and Joyce: how were we to know it would come to this?”—
“The trouble with Twitter is, I think, that too many twits might make a twat.”—David Cameron

makes me want to punch someone, preferably the ‘authors.' They're in Chicago. I'm gonna take a road trip.”
—@damig, Twitter
“A move likely to be greeted by book lovers with a mixture of horror and why-didn't-I-think-of-that jealousy.”
Chicago Tribune
“Just f *#%ing shoot me now.”
ALEXANDER ACIMAN was born in 1990. A sophomore at the University of Chicago, he was graduated from Horace Mann School in New York City. He has worked in the offices of several publications, including
The Paris Review
and the late
New York Sun,
which he and the city of New York mourn every day upon noticing its absence from every newsstand as the copper sun rises to greet the metropolis. He has published many articles in both his high school and college newspapers, as well as three feature article-essays in
The New York Times
and one in
The New York Sun.
He is also a devoted follower of Napoleon Bonaparte. He believes that there is no better way to start a day than with a run or a bike ride, and is known on occasion to enjoy a game of bocce or to engage in pugilism. He would like to write, own a pair of John Lobb shoes, and live out his days reading and writing in the Mediterranean basin with his brothers.
EMMETT RENSIN was born in 1990. He is a sophomore at the University of Chicago, before which he attended the finest parochial school in all of Los Angeles. A Huffington Post contributor and ordained reverend, and unable to tie his shoelaces at the tender age of sixteen, he gave it all up to pursue his true dream: putting stickers on books. This he did with care and devotion for many long hours, ensuring that every book in the reference library of the world-renowned Museum of Jurassic Technology at which he was employed had its lovely laminated ascension number neatly stuck upon its spine. He emerged from this a brighter and more worldly man. Rensin contributes to the University of Chicago's
Chicago Maroon
as well as the Huffington Post but takes care to balance his stresses with the relaxing arts of coat collection and Richard Nixon enthusiasm. Such balance is necessary, as extremity might cause Rensin's untimely death and prevent him from accomplishing his three life goals: penning the Great American Novel, mastery of card magic, and telling the perfect shaggy-dog joke.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in Penguin Books 2009
Copyright © Alexander Aciman and Emmett L. Rensin, 2009
All rights reserved
Aciman, Alexander.
Twitterature : the world's greatest books in twenty tweets or less /
Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-16282-8
1. Best books—Humor. 2. Twitter. I. Rensin, Emmett. II. Title.
PN6231.B62A36 2009
818'.607—dc22 2009040344
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the authors' rights is appreciated.

Dedicated in Loving Memory
to the Victims of the R.M.S.
Life can offer us no greater treasure than art. It is all that is beautiful, and all that allows a man's soul to take leave of the quotidian trifles that molest his waking mind, to be lifted to the highest peaks of experience, and to peer briefly into the sublime. It is that which removes man from the static residue of time and casts him into the gentle waters of the eternal. It is to hear and to speak softly in the beauteous tongue of antiquity, and yet to foresee all that will unfold through the illimitably growing passage of our universe.
In short, art is pretty sweet.
What a
, then, that so many modern people find the great works of literature inaccessible, overwhelming, and even, perhaps, dull. It is not a defect of their character, nor any special ineptitude that has disposed them in this manner; rather, these great texts - timeless as they may be - are, in their present form, outdated. Who but college students, hermits, and disciples of the disgraced John Ludd can muddle through them with any hope of understanding? This is what we seek, through our humble efforts, to remedy.
While some may describe the reinvention of our world's Great Works to suit the ever-evolving brain of the modern man as ‘a triviality', ‘a travesty', or ‘that sucks', we prefer to think of ourselves as modern-day Martin Luthers. Herr Luther took the Holy Scripture itself, and seeing that the classic Vulgate no longer spoke to the souls of his contemporaries, he translated it into the vernacular of his time. By doing so, Luther unleashed a revolution of faith and literacy upon sixteenth-century Europe that had not been seen before and has not been equaled since.
In our own way, and in our own time, we hope to do the same.
However, it's probably best if we stay clear of the Bible.
You may be wondering, good sirs, what exactly we intend to do with these great works of art. What one must keep in mind is that the literary canon is not valued for its tens of thousands of dull, dull words but for the raw insight into humanity it provides. While perhaps an unwieldy tome was the best method of digesting this knowledge during a summer spent in the Victorian countryside in the Year of Our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Three, times have changed. Virginity must not be distracted with books, nor damsel-chasing pacified with poetry. Instead we must run free into the world and not once look back.
And so, we give you the means to absorb the strong voices, valuable lessons and stylistic innovations of the Greats without the burdensome duty of hours spent reading. We take these Great Works and present their most essential elements, distilled into the voice of Twitter -
the social networking tool that with its limit of 140 characters a post (including spaces) has refined to its purest form the instant-publishing, short-attention-span, all-digital-all-the-time, self-important age of info-deluge -
and give you everything you need to master the literature of the civilized world.
For indeed, does any man have such great pretense as to suppose that he may digest all that it is right and proper for him to have digested in the stunted mortal fit granted to him by Providence? Perhaps in the eighteenth year of your life you sat on a porch asking yourself:
What exactly is Hamlet trying to tell me? Why must he mince words and muse in lyricism and, in short, whack about the shrub?
Such questions are no doubt troubling - and we believe they would have been resolved were the Prince of Denmark a registered user on
, well versed in the idiosyncrasies and idioms of the modern day. And this, in essence, is what we have done. We have liberated poor Hamlet from the rigorous literary constraints of the sixteenth century and made him - without losing an ounce of wisdom, beauty, wit, or angst - a happening youngster. Just like you, dear reader.
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