Have you ever thought about reading a great work of literature and been put off by the sheer number of words involved? If you’ve been procrastinating over Proust or shilly-shallying over Shakespeare help is at hand, thanks to two irreverent university students.
Emmett Rensin and Alexander Aciman, second-year students at the University of Chicago, have found a solution to this age-old problem, which combines the very new technology of Twitter and the very old technique of satire. Their mission? To condense some of the best loved works of world literature into a Tweet of 140 characters.
By the application of this method Sophocles’s classic tragedy Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, has been transformed by Rensin and Aciman into an outburst that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Beavis and Butt-head or the slacker movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “PARTY IN THEBES!!! Nobody cares I killed that old dude, plus this woman is all over me.” Dante’s Inferno has been considerably abbreviated as, “I’m having a midlife crisis. Lost in the woods. Shoulda brought my iPhone.”
In an interview with Reuters Television the pair discussed the challenges of Tweeting literary masters such as Homer: “We have Odysseus, he’s on an island, and he’s stranded, and he’s just fought in this egregious war. He has nothing to his name except his wits and his iPhone and at that point he goes on his Twitter account. What at that moment would Odysseus say?” Rensin said.
“There were some lines in the book where we’re sitting on a couch and we’re writing it, and we’d both laugh and say ‘there’s no way they’re going to let us write that,’” Aciman added.
Not surprisingly Rensin and Aciman have been dubbed disrespectful by the literary world, but they are as unrepentant as they are successful: Penguin has recently published a collection of their Tweets. Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter is available in bookshops as well as via www.amazon.co.uk.