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Franzen v. Twitter

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Jonathan Franzen, having seen off the menace of ebooks earlier this year, has directed his ire this week against social media, reportedly saying:

Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose… it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters… it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’… It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium… People I care about are readers… particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.

But this is to make a category error, roughly as reasonable as complaining about the constraints of telegrams, or saying: ‘Novels are unspeakably irritating. They’re such a slow and roundabout way to alert my friends to an interesting article I read in the LRB archive.’

Comments on “Franzen v. Twitter”

  1. zbs says:

    I too, dislike it.

    But how peculiar that the two desiderata for the format are fact-citing and argument-making. I would find JF unspeakably irritating if he weren’t always undercutting his own similes, e.g. with the semaphore performance art piece or the oulipo project. (Anyway, I’m not sure we’d need Kafka on twitter—there’s Teju Cole.)

  2. alex says:

    As ways of saying “Jonathan Franzen is unspeakably irritating” go, this is comparatively concise (726 characters, of which 376 are direct quotation), although not as concise as the one I have posited (only 38 characters).

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