This Wall St. Journal blog begins with “Do you hear that? It’s the sound of Shakespeare, rolling over in his grave.” That’s because it’s about a new book, Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less, forthcoming from Penguin Classics, which is, according to its web site, “A humorous retelling of works of great literature in Twitter format written by two 19-year old University of Chicago freshmen.”
Why can’t college freshman just get drunk and pass out somewhere, like we used to?
Just kidding. But still, as the author’s web site states, their book is “the beginning of a literary movement,” which scares me just a little. Don’t get me wrong: I use Twitter (and sometimes I even like it). But not as a substitute for reading (!!!). As the authors write on their web site, “as great as the classics are, who has time to read those big, long books anymore?” Well, let’s hope a few of us still do.
To be honest, I can’t wait to see this book. I’ve already witnessed the changes in undergraduates’ ideas of what writing (and spelling) is in this new digital era, and this book promises to be even more enlightening. For today’s students, “Twitter is the hip, the young, the everything,” according to the Twitterature authors, and they envision the book as “hipster’s Cliff Notes.”
Of course I’m (just barely) out of their demographic (18 to 35), but this does make me wonder if anyone under the age of 35 actually reads books anymore. What’s interesting is that these two authors, despite the fact that they want to reduce great literature to tweets, seem to have strong literary backgrounds — and I can’t help thinking how much I’d rather see new work from them rather than tweets of work we already know and love. Then again, they know what we all do: that this project is going to be far more lucrative.