Wednesday, April 13, 2011

9 Dead Writers I Follow on Twitter

There's a lot I love about Twitter, but it has one major fault: you have to be alive to use it. That might seem a strange complaint, but think about it: the vast majority of the most interesting people are dead. This limits what you can read on Twitter to people with a pulse (plus @colsonwhitehead). Or so I thought. 

Turns out, there are thousands of dead people on Twitter, many of them writers. And they are dead fun. These accounts tend to fall into three categories: quote machines, parody accounts, and estate accounts. Here's a brief sampling of each:

Quote Machines
Not since the bumper sticker has the pithy one-liner experienced such a renaissance. Jokes and flaccid self-help dominate the Twitterverse, so a little craftmanship is welcome in even the most carefully crafted feed. 

Note: You gotta knock the champ out. 
Representative Tweet: "I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour, that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life."

Note: Diarist of the Elizabethan Age. This feed gives a daily account of life in 17th Century England. Come for the slice of life, stay for the truly mesmerizing comma-usage. 
Representative Tweet: "Took up my wife and Deb., and to the Park. Being in a hackney, and they undressed, was ashamed to go into the tour, but went round the park."

Note: I truly, deeply wish Dorothy Parker was alive for Twitter. Enough to make me want to smash my head on a toilet in hopes of designing a flux capacitor. 
Representative Tweet: "Four be the things I'd have been better without: love, curiosity, freckles and doubt."

Note: Add a little gravitas to your feed; it makes all the differance. Or just be reminded why graduate literary studies kind of suck. 
Representative Tweet: "we go through the detour of the sign. We take or give signs. We signal. The sign, in this sense, is deferred presence."

Note: Clever, inspiring, and despairing by turn. Sometimes all at once. Side note: I wish Tom Robbins tweeted. 
Representative Tweet: "To me, wanting every habitable planet to be inhabited is like wanting everybody to have athlete's foot."

Take one part authorial identity. Add two parts clever interloper. Stir and enjoy.

Note: Satire on the events of the day from the gutter of Romanticism. 
Representative Tweet: "Our savage selfish interior lives yearn to be followed, but dread w/ an ugly despair the tedium of following back."

Note: Imagine if the dean of English literary critics sat around watching TV. This would pretty much be the result. Also, I dare you to reverse-engineer the capitalization conventions. See you when you finish in 300 years.
Representative Tweet: "The Goodfolk of Brooklyn gad about clad as Lumberjacks, Jack-Tars & Mesmerists, to my Amusement & Mrs THRALE'S Wonderment"

This is an emerging category, and one I hope becomes robust. These accounts track events, articles, and goings-on about a particular writer. 

Note: These good folk index the mind-bogglingly active world of Austen fanaticism and scholarship. From museum exhibits to arcane TV adaptations, they'll cover your Jane addiction. 
Representative Tweet: "Mrs. Smith, A Portrait of a Regency Woman from the Rising Merchant Class & Mrs. Poole, Georgette Heyer's Vulgar Creature:"

Note: This one is run by the honest-to-God literary estate of William Styron. Super, super smart move, and one that other literary estates should steal. I'm looking at you, people-who-control-the-David-Foster-Wallace stuff.
Representative Tweet: "Hilarious and cutting: Styron's play set in the Urological Ward of a U.S. Naval Hospital in the South, summer of '43"

If you just want a quick glance at these, I've collected them all in a Twitter list (don't need to use Twitter to see). 

I'm sure there are other notable dead-writer feeds out there and would love recommendations. Who do you follow? Or what pulseless penman would you like to see Tweencarnated? 

Through April 15, I am donating all referral fees generated through The Reading Ape to an effort to buy Rock City Books up in Maine. So if you have a little Powell's, Indie Bound, or Amazon shopping to do, click through the below links and a percentage of your purchase will go towards the effort.


  1. The moment I saws this title I thought 'I hope Vonnegut's in there.' I've thought with him, and other eminently quotable authors, that twitter is perfect. I toyed with the idea of setting up his twitter, but it's too late now (and I have enough trouble with my own, really.)

  2. These are some great "people" to follow. Thanks! I've retweeted this post as well by the way :)

  3. I'm also fond of @HalfPintIngalls, a parody of Laura Ingalls Wilder that is often very funny.

  4. @V_V_Nabokov is not to be missed -- of the parody variety

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