Alt lit’s darlings—Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez—are leaving their mother genre behind and birthing an entirely new one: Tweeting. Through editorial selections and a change of medium, the two writers transformed the sound byte quality of a Twitter into a narrative arc, in which readers can track years of depression, discomfort, and really funny jokes. Selected Tweets, the title of their joint project, comes out June 15 in the form of a thick, leatherbound book split perfectly in half between the two authors.
The halves are only loosely in dialogue with each other; readers will encounter an occasional @ mention and several shared experiences (such as watching the new X-Men), but where the book truly comes together is through medium and an overall lackadaisical drug obsession. Lin’s half is full of his typical neutrals and monotones, while Gonzalez’s is littered with objects being stuffed up her vagina and musings on Werner Herzog. The tweets are scattered, disconnected, but made cohesive through the authors’ perpetual discontent combined with their efforts to connect to others, and their spirals through drug abuse when this fails.
This is the first of a two-part interview with Gonzalez and then Lin.
To what extent was this book a collaboration? How do your sections interact?
We both have always had the same philosophy about Twitter. We tweet similarly and both feel that Twitter is not just a website that doesn’t mean anything. In the same way that haikus have a really specific format, Twitter has a very specific format in which you can say what you want to say. We don’t view it as anything less than a poem or a short story. We’ve both always felt that way. My publisher suggested the idea of a tweet flipbook, and then I suggested that we involve Tao because I really like his Twitter and he was one of the first people to ever support my writing.
What’s the difference between reading this book and reading your Twitter?
The main difference for me is that you read it chronologically. It starts when I was 17 and it goes all the way until a few months ago, so I think reading the book is the only way that you could get a full narrative from my Twitter, unless you’ve been following it since the very beginning and remember all of the tweets. I also like, though, that you can read it in two different ways. One is as a whole narrative arc, the other is you can turn to any page and just get a little snippet. Whereas Twitter gives only snippets when you read it online.
How would you categorize the book in terms of genre?
It’s hard because I feel like it’s a lot of genres. When I look at the book there’s a couple of ways that I view it. And I think Tao also said this in an interview. One way I view the book is as a novel, another is as a poetry collection, and another way is as a coffee table book where you can turn to any page and read something enjoyable. Tao and I didn’t discuss what we were going to say about what genre it is, so I think our views are similar, because we’re similar people, but not necessarily totally matched up. I think he probably views his side of the book differently from the way I view my side of the book because we’re different writers with different styles. At the end of the day, though, if two writers write a haiku, they’ll be different haikus but they’re still both haikus. In that sense people are kind of getting two books in one book.
I’m curious about your cover design. It looks as though it could have been a book written 100 years ago, an interesting choice considering its content is so 21st century.
It’s funny that you say that. We haven’t been asked about the cover yet and I was kind of hoping that I would be. The final design is actually going to be leather bound with the title stamped in—Tao’s side in silver and my side in gold. Originally, we wanted to illustrate the covers, but then the galleys came out and they looked so basic and good. So our idea going forward was that we wanted it to look like The Bible. We wanted it to be like the original King James, which we thought would be kind of funny given its content. Like having it look like an old, nicely bound, gold and silver book, and then having it be Twitter on the inside, I think was our way to show that you can put something like this in a book and it doesn’t look different than literature because it isn’t different than literature.
In 140 characters or less, what is this book about?
Oh wow, I might have to email that response. How about this: it’s selections from a Twitter account.