Emmett Rensin and Alex Aciman aim to squish literary classics into series of tweets
Is there no end to Twittermania? Last week we saw the social networking tool Twitter deployed on the streets of Tehran. This week, moving seamlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous, it is being used to aid the digestion of the world's greatest literature.
Fans of the classics will either be delighted or appalled to learn that the New York-branch of Penguin books has commissioned a new volume that will put great works through the Twitter mangle. The volume has a working title that will make the nerve ends of purists jangle: Twitterature.
In it, the authors will squish the jewels of world literature - they mention Dante, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Joyce and JK Rowling - into 20 tweets or less - that is 20 sentences each with fewer than 140 characters.
The book is the brainchild of two 19-year-old first-year students at the University of Chicago who claim to be starting a cultural revolution from their college dormitory. Bashing their heads together one evening in their university digs, Emmett Rensin and Alex Aciman asked themselves what defined the grandest ventures of their generation, and best expressed the souls of 21st century Americans?
Pretentious, maybe. Precocious, certainly. The answer they came up with was double-headed. They identified high literature as a crucial pillar for any generation.
But they also latched on to Twitter, the website where users compress all of human experience into 140 characters. Twitter, they thought to themselves, epitomised the short attention span and info-deluge that defined the contemporary age.
So what if you put the two together? If great literature and Twitter were combined into one new form - Twitterature. "We have embarked on an attempt to bring the two pillars of our generation together, once and for all," the students said.
In the blurb for the new book the authors give a clue to their incentives for writing it, which are not entirely ethereal. Aciman and Rensin, from New York and Los Angeles respectively, both harbour ambitions to become writers and both clearly also hanker after cash.
They say they are aiming for a book that has the literary merit to wow the blogosphere, as well as the "pure-money genius to take the market by storm".
Whether they are right and fulfil their dreams depends on the appetite for reading Dante's Divine Comedy reduced from its 512 pages in Penguin's own Classics edition to 20 short sentences. Or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last in the JK Rowling series, rendered in 2,800 characters down from 784 pages.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016