a funny vice journalist and anti-twitter

The “Anti-Twitter” installment on the Locus Novus site reminded me immediately of a writer from Vice Magazine by the name of Sam McPheeters.  Aside from his witty vice-typical musings on fashion, family and people we tend to identify as “assholes” or “chowderheads,” @sammcpheeters tweets a <140 character story a day.  Here are a few examples:

“Two albino koalas were injecting illegal street drugs in the street. “Why are you crying?” one asked. “I’m just so happy,” the other said.”

“After the unreleased Beatles LP was found, the enraged prime minister called everyone into his office. “Anything else I haven’t been told?””

“These three dudes live on a gas station canopy, and they don’t come down for anybody. Stop staring at them.”

These… I don’t know… stories? tweets?  are entertaining largely because of the quirky, nonsensical surreal humor they draw upon.  But in their necessary brevity there is also a kind of mockery, of belittlement of the simplicity of story, narrative and fiction.  In 140 characters McPheeters is able to establish a context, multiple characters and more often than not either a resolution of conflict or the creation of and immediate satisfaction of a curiosity.  What does this say about the imporatance enjoyed  by story in established fiction?  When we notice that what is missing from McPheeters’ daily posts is essentially everything else thought to creat the value of fiction.  “Anti-Twitter” does the same work, it seems, but with notably less absurdity.

“Anti-Twitter” compacts familiar literary constructions, clearly ommitting the better part of the substance but still easily recognizable in their <50-word adaptations.  The other obvious difference between the two is that “Anti-Twitter” has a unique interface, with links that make the reader a more active participant, especially when she observes the sounds and the static over the text.  These complications of the reading, and the sobering content of the ultra short stories of “Anti-Twitter” imbue the piece with a self-important awareness, a tone and mood that seem to proclaim the legitimacy of a form of writing that may not receive much authentic respect.

McPheeters’ pieces do nothing of the sort.  In fact, if there is any serious literary commentary in McPheeters’ Twitter activity, it depends on the absurdity and frivolity of such short pieces of writing.  If McPheeters can accomplish as much as he appears to do with as little space as he uses, it seems to cheapen the value of story.  In other words, if something as ridiculous, cheap and inconsequential as a “tweet” can do the work of story and character creation, what does it say of the “elements of ficiton” we learn in junior high English courses?

This medium directed self-deprication reminded me in some ways of parts of House of Leaves.  In particular I am thinking of the metaphor of Will and Karen Navidson.  In their relationship we see the over-the-head presentation of the photographer literally becoming distanced from the model, the marrital representation of the subject being torn from the object, of the impossibility of harmonious representation.  But the very establishment of the problem, if it is indeed communicated properly to the reader, and it seems to be, seems to refute itself.  A metaphor for the failure of metaphor.

This last bit might be a bit of rambling and is clearly a total afterthought but it’s there.  O well.


~ by dukerogersnelson on March 28, 2010.

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