Saturday, July 18, 2009

New evidence that James Joyce invented Twitter

Despite the hype - which is always a nuisance - I am finding Twitter to be a useful addition to my experience of media, social and otherwise - especially otherwise.

As a journalist who is picky about what journalism I experience, I find Twitter a painless way to browse headlines, looking for the stories likely to inform me without making my blood boil.

I'm touchy like that. I'm sure many butchers wince to see how most other butchers cut meat - yet are always on the lookout for someone who knows how to do it just right.

I read James Joyce's Ulysses all the way through to the end, for the first time, in the months when I was first experimenting with this new medium, so I was interested to notice that Joyce uses the word "Twittering" in his great, aggravating novel.

As if the Irish savant needed yet another reason to look far smarter than the rest of us, he employs the word "Twittering" in a passage following a reference to the "old media": just after a newsboy's cry.

By screens of lighted windows, by equal gardens a shrill voice went crying, wailing: Evening Telegraph, stop press edition ! Result of the Gold Cup race ! and from the door of Dignam's house a boy ran out and called. Twittering the bat flew here, flew there. Far out over the sands the coming surf crept, grey.
I think that is pretty cool.

I also thought that some of Joyce's experiments with fragmented dialogue resemble the way a string of Twitter posts appears to the browsing Twitterer.

JOE HYNES: Why aren't you in uniform?

BLOOM: When my progenitor of sainted memory wore the uniform of the Austrian despot in a dank prison where was yours?


BLOOM: Embellish (beautify) suburban gardens.

BEN DOLLARD: When twins arrive?

BLOOM: Father (pater, dad) starts thinking.

LARRY O'ROURKE: An eightday licence for my new premises. You remember me, sir Leo, when you were in number seven. I'm sending around a dozen of stout for the missus.

Much like how a Twitter feed reveals a number of unrelated conversations, all intercut with one another and with news of the wherever and whatever.


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