“Twitter is one of the futures of the novel”

Teju Cole:

It is against this backdrop that we might try to understand what the Internet in general, and Twitter in particular, mean for experimental prose. For isn’t this, in all its narration and ungoverned excess, where we might now be going? Isn’t Twitter the most vivid illustration since Ulysses of what full inclusion might mean? There are two-hundred million people on Twitter. They are all writing, and all are writing under a formal constraint.

This leads one, almost, into a mystical formulation: on Twitter there is no “novelist” but there is a novel: Twitter is the continuity of the published thoughts of all the people present on Twitter. It had a beginning, but it has no end. And each second, thousands of pages are added, millions of contributions per day. And each person who reads it, as Heraclitus might have promised, reads something different from everyone else. This is an inclusiveness, from an unexpected direction, that might begin to affect even the practice of the conventional published novel. It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t: most young novelists are themselves active on Twitter now. The atomized mode of information dispersal is more and more natural, and less and less “experimental” or elite.

Though there are interesting individual experiments on Twitter, I am drawn to the original meaning of “individual”: that which is undivided. It is the undivided, undifferentiated cascade of thoughts streaming past the timeline that makes me suspect that Twitter is, indeed, elongating the perspective of human sensibility. I want to suggest, then, that Twitter is one of the futures of the novel. In a time of commercial publishing and excellent television, the novelist is smaller than ever before. But the novel itself, it seems, is suffering the opposite fate: it is getting bigger and bigger, and gradually swallowing the whole world.

 via @plumpesDenken