Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Great Gatsby + Egan's Twitterature Experiment

Some people have too much money handy. What am I talking about? Baz Luhrman's initial trailer for his version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Watching this, I have one question, whose answers I already know (A: "Because he can; because the producers imagine dollars flowing in based on the name, stars, style; because Hollywood is intellectually bankrupt and seems to have forgotten that there are countless novels written since The Great Gatsby that might make interesting films; because etc."). Why?


Jennifer Egan, who received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, has decided to share the beginning of her new novel, Black Box, via Twitter, as a series of Tweets via The New Yorker's feed @NYerFiction. She began doing so on Thursday night, and the first section is up on the magazine's site, as "Black Box." More than anything it reads to me less like Egan's other prose fiction that I've read--and she does write in a variety of voices, as A Visit from the Goon Squad exemplified--than a poetic experiment, the enforced concision of the 140 character pushing her towards a condensation whose result is aphorism, or something akin to it.  Think G. C. Lichtenberg, or E. M. Cioran. Were she wrapping these nuggets in ampler verbiage, I'd even cite the Walter Benjamin of One Way Street.

Take the opening lines:

People rarely look the way you expect them
to, even when you’ve seen pictures.

The first thirty seconds in a person’s
presence are the most important.

If you’re having trouble perceiving and
projecting, focus on projecting.

Unlike a prior experimenter in this microserialist format, Rick Moody, who in the late fall of 2009 tweeted a 153-tweet story, over 3 days, entitled "Some Contemporary Characters" for Electric Literature, she isn't allowing the sentences to run past the 140-character (Twitter's) limit, which is to say, to enjamb them. Or is the verb for sentences flowing past their technologically-enforced boundary "superlineate"? I asked on Twitter earlier whether "Twitterature" itself was a word (I imagine it is), and whether this text by Egan might not be a noteworthy contribution to it.

Japan has an entire fictional genre born of text messages; others, beyond Moody, like John Wray, have written stories and novels on Twitter; and our most recent inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, like many predecessors, conceived of using the platform as a means for poetry.  Its asseverative quality seems especially apt for that oldest of literary forms. If Egan plans to proceed stylistically like this, I find it hard to believe she'll sustain this beyond a chapter or two. But she's as talented a writer as you'll find out there, so she probably has a larger design up her sleeve. I will certainly read the final version.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason I feel in the minority in liking Baz & DiCaprio's Romeo + Juliet (with Harold Perrineau magnificent as Mercutio), so I'm willing to give their Gatsby a look. But it seems to me that book, like so many other great novels, is such an experience of LANGUAGE, of writing, that it is really impossible to translate into film. The bones of the plot/story aren't strong enough to be stripped from Fitzgerald's prose. But we'll see.

    BTW, although there were a LOT of problems with the Robert Redford version of Gatsby, I thought Sam Waterston was a perfect Nick Carroway.