Franzen doesn't "get" Twitter - but the next generation of authors will...
x-posted to YatMedia and ebranley.com
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.
Yes, it's a stupid statement. Nobody creates an argument in 140 characters. That's not twitter's purpose, though. Cite facts? Well, it is possible to offer a link to facts in 140 characters, but once Franzen summarily dismissed the platform, the rest of what he says really doesn't matter.
Here's the thing, though. Franzen doesn't have to "get" Twitter. His career and image are already established, and are now nurtured by the PR machine that is the old-school model of book publishers. Whether his opinion of Twitter is born of ignorance or deliberately calculated to perpetuate the old-school publishing model doesn't matter; the net result is the same.
The next batch of "Great American Authors" will do Twitter, though. That's because they're self-publishing, using sites like Amazon and Smashwords to bypass the old-school bubble in which Jonathan Franzen lives. Those authors will talk to people in a Google Plus "hangout" rather than an auditorium at Tulane University, saving themselves a lot of money in terms of book tours and promotions. Their readers won't mind so much, since it's so hard to get your Kindle copy of a novel autographed, anyway.
Is a hangout somehow less personal than 30 seconds in front of an author at a local bookstore? Hardly. We'll get to know those whose writing we enjoy much better using this new technology. We'll use Twitter (while it survives) for quick back-and-forth banter with them. We'll do fangirl/boy "squee" when they actually reply to us.
And Jonathan Franzen will sit at home with his money when his publishing bubble bursts.