Last year, Ernest Hemingway tweeted one of his own quotables: “That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best — make it all up — but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.”
Well, not the writer himself, but an enthusiastic fan posing as him on Twitter as @ehemingway.
The legacy of the original Hemingway lives on, as his tweet-, text-, and status update-like style dominates our online language. Blame Papa (who won a $10 bet for his short story, For sale: Baby shoes, never worn) for engaging in micro-fiction, a literary form perfectly in tune with the other lumps of online data we regularly consume.
Toronto-based writer Julie Wilson believes 140-character word counts are akin to the poet’s stanza constraints. “You have people talking, responding and observing the world — putting creativity out there in a public way that’s completely fascinating,” she said.
Since 2006, Wilson — the “Gossip Girl of the book world” who’s worked for publishers such as House of Anansi Press — has maintained seenreading.com, a popular “literary voyeur” site that captures people reading on the subway, in parks, in coffee shops. She imagines those readers as characters, and spins them into micro-fiction postings.
However, she’s still concerned about how this changes our definition of literature.
“If it can be delivered in a tweet, does that suggest there’s any less thought or labour?” Wilson muses.
“As a reader, I’m the sort of person that if you get me in a sentence, I have to put the book down because I’m caught by how wondrous it is,” she says. “That’s the power of micro-fiction.”
Rea McNamara writes about the on/offline statuses of niches and subcultures. Follow her on Twitter @reeraw.