Brooklyn-based Lit Mag’s Twitter Experiment

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A literary anthology based out of Gold Street in Fort Greene, Electric Literature, began publishing a new short story by Rick Moody, renowned author of The Ice Storm, via Twitter today.

Using its Twitter handle @ElectricLit the literary outlet announced the coming of “Rick Moody’s Microserialized Twitter Fiction Project,” which is titled ‘Some Contemporary Characters,’ and called it “an experiment in participatory ePublishing,” encouraging Twitter users to re-tweet the story in its entirety. The story will include 153 tweets, sent out over three days, beginning today around 10am.

The Ink is interested in Electric Literature’s innovative union of social media and literature. We will be re-posting the tweets here on our site. In addition, stick with us for a follow-up story in the days to come, for which we will speak to Twitter users, and those involved in this process, about the experiment’s inception and success.

Remember that you can follow @ElectricLit directly to see the story unfold on Twitter.

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1. “Some Contemporary Characters” by Rick Moody

2. There are things in this taxable and careworn world that can only be said in a restrictive interface with a minimum of characters:

3. Saw him on OKCupid. Agreed to meet. In his bio he said he had a “different conception of time.” And guess what? He didn’t show.

4. I waited for her three days. On and off. True, they were the wrong three days. Went back a week later—to that coffee shop of longing.

5. Bunch more online dates. All candidates underemployed with big plans. One guy worked in sewage treatment. One guy played sax on the IRT.

6. The waitress at the establishment used the word “honey” repeatedly. Each time it was a kindness in that lonely urban setting.

7. No lie: I walk by the place where I was supposed to meet that man, two weeks later, he’s sitting there reading a book.

8. Certain questions relating to human conduct require earnest reflection. The rest of the world is absent for a time. How to explain?

9. A man more than twice your age who’s always late. Rule him out right away, or at least let him attempt to explain himself?

10. I said, “Old enough to remember that feminine beauty is nowhere apparent in a point-of-purchase glossy containing the word cellulite.”

11. I said, “Young enough to assert a right to text an account, warts and all, from the diner bathroom in case you’re a serial rapist.”

12. Willing to play along, if playing along involves a certain idea of language, because we are how we use the tongue now.

13. The thinning hair and the extra fifteen pounds, sure, but I could tell that from the photo online. He wasn’t a total schlump.

14. A jeans-with-skirt-over-them-type, sort of busty, with three different hair colors, none of them found in nature.

15. I think he wore an earring at some point, you could see the little divot in his earlobe—how long ago and why?

16. If she had an ass-to-die-for what did that mean with regard to gender politics, and was I willing to die for an ass to die for?

17. What did he actually do? Did he actually do anything? Is it only me who stumbles on these guys whose occupation is daydreamer?

18. Proposed another sit-down, four days hence, then drove to Vermont to have my colon cleansed by a harpie with dreadlocks.

19. I said yes to the date, then hooked up with a co-worker, b/c I could. For the record: the dude with last shift at the Carmine St. bar.

20. Next I suggested a film by Tarkovsky because I felt that if she could sit through it there might be hope. Instead, the film caused typing.

21. Dullest movie I have ever seen: made confessional poetry and folk music night at the Student Union sound like big fun, that’s how dull.

22. The suppression of the semi-colon; the inability to avoid the use of LIKE; the overreliance on the simple sentence—ills of the age.

23. Why agree to a third date? Because I already had plenty of people to go with me when I needed eyebrow piercing.

24. Sooner or later love is about death, no matter the lover—desire coughs up the rank fumes of death. And so I proposed bowling.

25. He said, “The shoes are sublime. The shoes recall a semiotics of freight-train-hopping. And, yes, the pins connect us to American folklore.”

26. She said, “The shoes are funky, and they make me want to dance on one of those light up dance floor video game things. Give me a ten.”

27. He said, “I’d say you were the worst bowler ever, but that would be dialectical-style analysis, and, well, Hegel is so eighties.”

28. She said, “If I bowl a strike now you have to tell me if you’re impotent or if you take Viagra or have benign enlarged prostate.”

29. Maybe he’s a life coach, and it’d be just my luck since everyone says I make dumb decisions about things. But I can bowl.

30. An ungodly strike, an indisputable strike, one pin teetering at the rightmost margin like chastity itself toppling with a dramatic sigh.

31. Not that anyone’s keeping track but now comes the part when the rules of engagement permit a discussion of human sexuality.

32. I determined not to gab, and thereby I would be young again, by instead using my lips for what lips are designed for, which is not gabbing.

33. Kissing a guy with gray hair on the street in front a pizzeria by a bowling alley and shoving my tongue way in, inadvisable?

34. Contraindicated. Against the code. Breaking most conceivable taboos. Pedophiliac. Bringing waves of guilt. Still, she was ardent.

35. That was it, nothing else, and people kiss every day, and the only difference nowadays is that people try to text while kissing.

36. Her eyes drifted off. I could see her preparing something witty: “I can’t quxhyte reeeaad keybrd cuz my yongue is in somnody’s mout.”

37. Actually, I did text on the way home and mainly because I knew my roommate was going to get up in my face: Did he kiss old?

38. Up around 4AM sorting and recycling back issues of The Nation. A bit more age appropriate than smooching some barmaid?

39. He called me because, he said, phoning after a date was required. Land lines—so Tracy & Hepburn. I thought: letting me down easy.

40. She IM’d me on FB to tell me that her mother had summoned her home for the weekend, she had to go. I thought: met a kid her own age.

41. My mother is two years older than he is, same age practically. She’s already telling me which jewelry is mine when she dies.

42. Note to self at dawn: S. Spielrein recognized the destructive essence of longing, an idea she passed on, like an STD, to Freud and Jung.

43. He’s assuming that I get all my information from the iPhone or from the Interwebs. But I also get my info from bar patrons.

44. Enough! Enough blather! Enough neurotic vacillation! Enough middle-aged hand-wringing! For whatever reason she seems to like you! Enough!

45. Coney Island was open one more weekend, and it was getting cooler, and I had this halter top I really liked. Cream-colored.

46. I’d never been to Coney Island, because I dislike crowds, though I had been writing notes about the Russian mob, existentialism thereof.

47. “Some Contemporary Characters” by Rick Moody (day 2 of 3).

48. On the train he told me that his dad, who’d disliked him and called him ne’er do well, left him enough money to survive precariously.

49. On the train she indicated that she’d been assaulted by a friend of her older brother’s when in her middle teens. Details murky and sad.

50. On the train he said that his partner of decades, estranged, worked with deaf kids. He saw the loss of her as a “great, enduring fuckup.”

51. On the train she coiled her necklace, some trinket from St. Mark’s Place, around her fingers, like a proposition she couldn’t resolve.

52. On the train he said that he hadn’t slept with anyone for years. Said his one successful relationship had been with solitariness itself.

53. On the train she asked what I liked to do with my body, and I winced because there was nothing at all that I liked to do with it.

54. On the train I asked what he liked to do with his body and he answered that he wasn’t certain—how could he be?—that he inhabited a body.

55. On the train she hooked a thumb in her jeans, and looked away. One sandal and then the other traversed the summit of a knee. I watched.

56. On the train I tried to flirt, who knows why, because what did I think I wanted? I don’t know. Sometimes you just do things.

57. On the train she could not flirt much because there was no phone service and as a result her affect was much constrained.

58. On the train I said that the sand was warm at Coney and there were hypodermic needles and if you lay down you could see stars.

59. On the train I said that I had lower back pain and needed a lot of support under my knees. In fact, I needed support generally.

60. On the train I looked at his gray pullover, his thriftstore suit pants, his whitish hair. This man will be my lover? And then? After that?

61. On the train, when the riders thinned out, she circled around the metal pole, mocking and engaging the pole dance.

62. On the train, when everyone got off, I let him know that I knew what was expected, which was an idea of a young woman.

63. On the train, when the riders thinned out, she circled around the metal pole, mocking and engaging the pole dance.

64. On the train, when everyone got off, I let him know that I knew what was expected, which was an idea of a young woman.

65. On the train I asked her why she did these things, didn’t she have any better way of meeting people? If people were what she was after?

66. On the train I said why were you on OKCupid in the first place, trolling for co-eds, if you’re against the way that people have fun now?

67. Into an awkwardness of human relations mercy can sometimes felicitously intrude, or, contrawise, we came to the end of the line.

68. You can see the Cyclone from just about anywhere and my heart thundered at the screams as we ambled off the train.

69. “You’ve got to be kidding,” said I, “I am no longer young, I am no longer at the point where I can remember my youth, and I’m panicky.”

70. He said: spinning things made him puke, and rollercoasters reminded him of military service, even though he never served.

71. She said that we were going on the coaster no matter what, even when I observed that the freak show was rumored to be of high caliber.

72. What’s a rollercoaster but a spot where you make out with someone you just mashed yourself against? Is there another purpose?

73. Entire phenomenon is really about the first great plummet, because every hill after the first is slightly less persuasive.

74. You have to be willing to do the first hill and to feel the wooden beams of the frame all shuddery beneath you. The rest is gravy.

75. A price break is offered the second time around, which is the way life is: you pay to be nauseated, then you get a volume discount on more.

76. We rode three times and by the third time the scary parts got all routine, and he was green, so we went to play Skee-Ball.

77. Coney Island is a demolition site, a future overdevelopment shrine, and the only thing that salves the wound is the ubiquity of Skee-Ball.

78. Roll this old wooden ball up a ramp and try to get it in this ball-sized hole, then you get some tickets which are worth nada.

79. The tickets are actual tickets, because they say “ticket” on them. If you win ten thousand you can redeem these for a Chinese squirt gun.

80. I’m good at bowling, and I’m good at Skee-Ball, and so I won a stuffed rabbit, and we took the rabbit and walked out to the boardwalk.

81. Out there: the same Atlantic Ocean that laps the Outer Banks and pools in Casco Bay. It shimmers in the moonglow, unused.

82. Every beachfront should have a boardwalk. Every boardwalk should have Orthodox couples. Always there should be gang activity.

83. I said I was writing about the Russian mob and Dostoevsky for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. Wasn’t trying to boast. Just talking.

84. He said he’d like it if we went to have dinner in Brighton Beach because the amusement park was just “too adolescent.”

85. She said I needed to take my “inner adolescent” out and show him a really really really really really really really nasty time.

86. And then we were on the beach, pretty ugly beach with all the trash and everything, but next to the Atlantic. In twilight.

87. I come from a landlocked state (PA) and I live part-time in a landlocked state (VT) and so I am awed by an oceanic expanse.

88. I don’t want to say that something happened on the beach that wouldn’t have happened catalytic. It should have happened on the Cyclone.

89. I don’t want to say that something happened on the beach, that the ocean was somehow responsible, but she did put away her iPhone.

90. I was supposed to text or e-mail my friend Ariel every twenty minutes or it meant that he was hacking me into pieces and eating me.

91. Putting the phone in her pocket was somehow the most revealing thing, like when myopics put their glasses on the bedside table.

92. There was the light from the boardwalk, sound of the ocean, some Latino troublemakers cackling nearby, and we fell into each other’s arms.

93. In the sand. In the sand. I can’t even stand up most days, what with the bad back, but I fell into the sand and, oh, her arms!

94. We twisted around some way so I was on top. For a while. He couldn’t crush me. I could feel his complications in the dim light.

95. She was like some sprite, and there was that incredible feeling, known to all persons, when your cares become insubstantial.

96. He tasted like Listerine, Mylanta, roast beef, mesclun salad, decaf from one of those old coffee pots from a tag sale, salt water taffy.

97. She tasted like chai latte, lite beer, nicotine gum, Tic Tacs, grapefruit, cider vinegar, chocolate chip cookies, and the middle class.

98. He kept trying to say something, but then he couldn’t say it. He couldn’t say anything. I thought this was amusing.

99. Low light helps. A distracting milieu. Tens of hundreds of tourists. Calliope sounds. Rollercoasters. The moon.

100. It’d be interesting to see how many languages, world over, offer some version of the phrase “Get a hotel room!”

101. They say “Get a hotel room!” in Spanish, they can say it in Russian, and they can say it in Black Vernacular Dialect too.

102. I like saying “Suck my dick” to any asshole who gets on my nerves, but when you’re lying on the sand embracing someone you don’t bother.

103. At some point there were limitations which were the limitations of conscience and propriety in a public place, no matter how honky-tonk.

104. “Some Contemporary Characters” by Rick Moody (day 3 of 3)

105. You always think that love or sex or whatever are like totally liberated or totally liberating but there are things you just don’t do.

106. De Sade’s only limit was his imagination, you know, but he was in a prison cell when he scribbled down his provocations.

107. There were a few hotels there, I guess, but we’d have to pay up and he had no credit cards because he didn’t believe in usury.

108. There are certain hygiene regimens—scalp-related—that I really don’t like to do without unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.

109. My parents’ names are all over my one Amex, didn’t want him to see that, and then I realized I didn’t have any extra underwear.

110. So we found ourselves walking back toward the train, upbeat, at least till we realized we’d misplaced the rabbit.

111. On the train, I thought: some feelings you only realize later how important they are. Do you know where your toy rabbit is?

112. On the train, I asked myself, “Am I ready to step out from the wings onto the stage of romantic activity? Did I somehow slay the rabbit?”

113. On the train, he got shy even shyer, though I’d just felt him up against me, I’d felt his heartbeat and some other parts of him too.

114. On the train, she knew what I knew, that I was a retiring person trying not to be, and I was embarrassed in her knowing.

115. On the train, it started to feel hopeless and awkward where on the way out it had been hopeful and there’d been an adrenalin of possibility.

116. On the train, running out of things to say, I figured I’d discuss politics. Must have been desperate, as this is such a bad topic.

117. On the train, he brought up politics, which to him probably meant like Al Gore or something. I was 13 when Al Gore ran.

118. On the train, I stammered about campaign financing being the third rail of the American political establishment and she said: “Huh?”

119. On the train I told him that I was pierced, I was tattooed, I was tribal, I loved whatever way I wanted to, and that was my revolution.

120. On the train I said you don’t understand, politics isn’t the kind of thing you can just ignore, even if voting is a big buzzkill, and—

121. On the train I said, “The other thing you’re overlooking, if you don’t mind me saying, is tech stuff, and that is so political.”

122. On the train, I said, “There’s a reason that I have failed at all of this sort of thing for years, and I don’t want you to have to—”

123. On the train, I said, “Doesn’t it occur to you to give a person a chance? Does it occur to you that a person could be different?!!”

124. On the train, I said, “I can tell you are going to use multiple exclamation points when you write this down, and while I admire excess in—”

125. On the train, I said, “This is really stupid, we were having a nice time, and now it’s all . . . I really think it’s you.”

126. “Of course you think it’s me,” I said on the train, “because when does someone your age take on the responsibility for her—”

127. “You were just waiting to condescend,” I said on the train, and I got up and moved to the other side of the car.

128. On the train, I thought: I just held this woman, this china vase, this wolverine, and now I’m no better than the vagrant in the two-seater.

129. There’s a point when you can start repairing all the awful shit you said, but then you kind of dig in and say more awful shit.

130. I was a social worker at a halfway house back when and I used to say to clients: when you are becoming angry you are becoming reverent.

131. Sometimes I think that when I am flipping off some asshole, hating him, belittling him, maybe I’m honoring too.

132. What if I’m just not in a place anymore when I can go through with it? What if the use-by date is used and bygone?

133. On the train, I said, “I figure you are trying to be nice and you just don’t know how, because all you really know about me is my bio.”

134. She was rather vehement about my non-awareness of her unique properties, from across the car, and I was nodding in agreement.

135. All this had happened, and we still had like, I don’t know, eight stops or something. I just had to sit there with him staring at me.

136. We fitted in the whole of a May to December romance—from unwarranted optimism to contempt—between Surf Ave and Union Square.

137. I couldn’t believe he was willing to write the whole thing off so easy, and now he was going back to his hovel to pick his scabs.

138. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t mature enough to realize that this is what happens when you’re involved with other people: rollercoastering.

139. I couldn’t believe I rode the train all the way to Coney Island and back with this geezer just because he could quote from philosophers.

140. We got off the train together, and that was a heavy labor. Another Saturday night in which I was to lay myself down beside insomnia.

141. We got out, climbed the stairs, he was going south, I was going east. We were alike: both guilty of thinking more than we were admitting.

142. All I could formulate was the perception that I hadn’t really kissed anyone like that in so long. Did I not deserve it just a little?

143. He said, “We could just start the conversation over as though we haven’t met. You could even play my part. It’s a small effort.”

144. But then we were kissing good night, and I didn’t know why except that this is the custom. Like Judas summoning the Roman guard.

145. I kissed him good night because I was kissing goodbye to all the old guys and their nostalgia and shaky confidence and felt tip pens.

146. “I’ll call you,” I said, which meant, I think, that I devoutly wished to call, but that something was likely to prevent me.

147. “I’ll call you,” he said, which meant, I guess that he wouldn’t call at all, but he thought he should say something.

148. Ninth Street, it was, when she turned east toward the park, and I could see her receding, an actual person receding.

149. No one would have thought I ever knew him, except that maybe I walked his dog for him or something, or typed his correspondence.

150. No one would have ever thought I knew her, except from Casual Encounters on Craigslist or because I needed help with my affairs.

151. I watched him head into the crosswalk and almost get run over by a bicyclist, and then I called Ariel and told her that I was in one piece.

152. I watched as some fellow accosted her on the sidewalk—for loose change, I suppose. In that moment I seethed with jealousy.

153. Ariel said I needed to get right back on the horse, the dead horse, so first thing I did was sign on OkCupid. Any activity?

154. I knew she was going to post about it. I decided it wouldn’t be the actual mutual-assured-destruction account unless I posted too.

155. Started following his status updates, because I needed to vet them, you know, but also because I was curious. I mean, they were about me.

156. I’d already friended her, and I confess I felt sad when reading her posts, though can you really be sad about a bunch of ones and zeroes?

157. Like a week later I saw him through the window in that coffee shop. Looking at his watch, contemplating his different conception of time.

158. **END**

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3 Responses to “Brooklyn-based Lit Mag’s Twitter Experiment”

  1. LexyLove
    November 30, 2009 at 3:55 PM #

    i like the microserialization concept and the piece obviously lends itself well to the format better than would a traditional/linear story. do we know if moody wrote it expressly for this purpose and/or whether it was published previously?

    i’m also curious how most people will read it– in real time (1-2 tweets at a time) or in chunks (checking 1-2 times a day)? maybe more interesting is the question of whether it is read interspersed with other tweets the reader follows, which makes for a different kind of serialization b/c of built-in interruptions.

  2. sonja
    December 2, 2009 at 6:49 PM #

    Twitter may not be ideal for fiction (140 characters is nothing if not claustrophobic), but he got off a few good lines. Anyway, NOTHING could ever be as bad as this http://www.theawl.com/tag/managed-expectations

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  1. No Word Allowed | Cathy Day - April 3, 2011

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