28 November 2013

For Sale: Bumper Pool Table, Overused

The title is a joke, partly-based on the purported Hemingway story, and also a nod to my friend Oogle's most recent DeviantART journal being posted in haste to bump a larger journal off her front page. 
While working on a larger, triptych form of When They Fold Space, as well as a version after that which will be a somewhat even longer form, I was looking up Twitter novels. I'd stumbled upon them a long time ago while looking up an author I'd almost forgotten about whom I'd first heard of thanks to a paperback hand-me-down. 
Clare Bell had written a book called Tomorrow's Sphinx, a very interesting book about a cheetah with weird markings that, sadly, I never got around to delving into past the first half-chapter. Eventually, the book was lost in one of several moves, possibly sold off in an oversight, and forgotten. Many years later, I'm looking through Pokemon fan art while compiling a Top 5 list for my Tumblr, and happen upon Umbreon, which has a notably Egyptian styling in terms of color and markings. It made me think of that book. It led me to wonder just what happened to Mrs. Bell. I'd never seen her name elsewhere apart from that one book; it made me wonder if she was a one-hit wonder. 
For starters and to her credit, she's not a one-hit wonder; there's a whole series of books apparently more well-known and much-loved by her fans than Tomorrow's Sphinx. While it's true her activity in literary fields has dwindled a bit, it's not for the sake of resting on laurels. Not only is she building electric cars, but whole solar and hydroelectric systems for green living, and she's been doing that since before the term "green" was in vogue. More interestingly, she embraced Twitter as a way to connect with her amazingly patient fanbase by giving them a new installment in the Ratha series via tweets
Some of you may be laughing at that idea, especially if you've spent any real time on Twitter (and I love the service, flaws and all). It's true, the 140 character-at-a-time structure can be a little hard to work with. It probably reminds some of you of old videogames, where a sentence leaves you hanging only to reveal there was only one word left, with a long and awkward pause before it. It's really something you paradoxically have to plan meticulously in advance for yet be extremely malleable about. It seems like something poets would be better equipped to approach, except that poetry is all about syllables, and 140 characters doesn't give nearly as much leeway in establishing rhythm and flow as you might think. Despite a fair amount of good tips out there on how to approach it, as well as a few good examples of making it work, this may be a medium not suitable for the English language. It makes me think of Tommy Tiernan's remark about how the English language doesn't suit his soul, like it's this giant wall between him and his audience, with profanity as his chisel. 

The people who seem to get the most out of Twitter as a new form of modern literature, on the whole, are the Japanese. I remember hearing a story on NPR about people in Japan tweeting reactions and thoughts to the recent earthquake. At one point, the interviewer interrupted the recitation to confirm it was actually a tweet, not only because of how eloquent it was, but how long it seemed. The reader retorted, rather cleverly, that while 140 characters can be fairly limiting for English or Spanish or French, it's no problem for a language like Japanese where most words and even some phrases can be expressed in a single character, a Kanji. 

It's also worth noting that many Kanji, being borrowed from Chinese, have double-meanings. 

Think about it. 
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