Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.
In his end notes to his biography of David Foster Wallace, D.T. Max of The New Yorker, writes that “David may have been the last great letter writer in American literature” and that “with the advent of email [Wallace’s] correspondence grew terser, less ambitious.” Burn echoes the same view, observing that “the major difference probably stems from the more rigidly linear format of some of his emails. Some of the great letters look like spiderweb art: in these notes, Wallace has written over the top of the letter he’s replying to, with comments between the lines, spiralling into the margins, running up to headers and down to the footers.”
The #TwitterFiction Festival runs for four days, and while many (if not all?) of the participants appear to be pre-scheduled, that doesn’t preclude some spontaneity — and perhaps they’ve even got a few secret tricks planned. They’ve got a great and varied line-up on board, from Emma Straub to Alexander McCall-Smith, and they’ve been teasing at a variety of different approaches for weeks. Will they break any new ground? The surest way to tell is to watch your Twitter feed. All tweets may be archived forever in the Library of Congress, but if past Twitter fiction experiments are any indicator, the best way to feel a tweet’s full impact is to catch it just as your feed drops down and the notification pops up: “1 new Tweet.”
If you’re tired of only getting catalogs and bills in your mailbox, ask your friends to mail their tweets. For a month, Giles Turnbull corresponded with 15 of his Twitter followers by mail. “Tweeting by post made me appreciate the online and the offline. Brevity is a good thing, but there’s no reason we should only be brief on Twitter,” Turnbull writes for The Morning News. Pair with: Our roundup of literary Twitter’s first tweets.
Mavericks is not so much the inspiration for a Beach Boys song as it is a symbol of Melvillian existential struggle. At Mavericks there is no endless summer, no beach-blanket bingo. And everyone who surfs Mavericks understands that what is at stake is your life, which could end in any number of miserable ways, ways that might give you a crushingly protracted time to think about what, exactly, went wrong, and why you are there, underwater, listening to a thirty foot mountain of hydrogen-dioxide and salt press down on you; and you look around, into and through but not beyond the ocean’s blue-green screen of impending death.
An entire essay could be written about the name ‘Mavericks’ alone. It’s odd enough that it’s the plural form of a word about a person who refuses to conform. We assign it to politicians who break with the party line, or to jet-fighters from the 1980s with good hair and a reckless disregard for their own lives in pursuit of some thrill which makes their lives seem worthwhile.
This week Margaret Atwood tweeted a photo of her and Alice Munro drinking champagne in a “secret lair.” There’s no denying it — technology has changed the way we tell stories. Atwood and 16 other writers, from Victor LaValle to Lee Child, discussed how technology influences their work in The New York Times. “There’s nothing worse for plots than cellphones. Once your characters have one, there’s no reason for them to get lost or stranded,” Rainbow Rowell said.
As evidenced by the amazing quiz “Jonathan Franzen Gripe or YouTube Comment about Saggy Pants,” a perception exists that the widely acclaimed writer is allergic to new technology. At Slate, Benjamin Nugent argues that Franzen’s new book, The Karl Kraus Project, proves inadvertently that Franzen is less of a Luddite than we think.
Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story is now a reality. He got to try Google Glass and wrote about the experience for The New Yorker. “When the velvet-rope hostess at the of-the-moment Wythe Hotel bar in Williamsburg stops to take a photo of me with her iPhone, I know exactly what the producer meant. This is the most I will ever be loved by strangers.”