Teju Cole Wrote a Short Story on Twitter by Retweeting Others

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 8 2014 3:11 PM

Teju Cole Wrote a Short Story on Twitter by Retweeting Others

1389213140

We already knew that Teju Cole was an unconventional tweeter—full of thoughtful observations and nary a link—and, as a result, an essential person to follow. (Plus, his 2011 novel Open City was my favorite of that year.) Now, it seems, he’s combined the two talents and enlisted others to help him present his newest story.

About three hours ago, Cole retweeted @runtyreader: “. . . to the subway, I saw a man on the ground. He sat on the sidewalk, under trees, with his feet out to the quiet street.” Since then, his stream (which hadn’t been updated for 81 days) has been a steady flow of other people’s tweets, which together form a cohesive story about a man who has had a heart attack. The Verge has confirmed that Cole solicited the tweets and that they’re not random found content (as I’d initially suspected). Slate contributor Mark O'Connell told me by email that Cole had DM'd him asking him to contribute while the project was already underway. He was sent the lines that were then retweeted.

Advertisement

Telling a story on Twitter can be tough. In 2012, The New Yorker tweeted out the entirety of Jennifer Egan’s short story Black Box and followers were able to read it in real time, so to speak. But Cole’s approach takes this a step further. As someone who follows Cole, I know it’s him when I see his face in my feed, but many of the people he’s retweeting I don’t recognize, and as they show up in my feed, they’re easy to ignore. In order to follow the story, you have to pay attention to these stray tweets that might otherwise get lost amid the various one-liners and shared links. Put together (as in the Storify post below), a larger picture appears.

Miriam Krule is a Slate assistant editor.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?