Home > Hilarity, History, Internet, Literature > @Sidslang’s Best of Twitter #6

@Sidslang’s Best of Twitter #6

@Schama_ebooks & @zizek_ebooks

One of Twitter’s underappreciated glories is that it manufactures its own ephemeral context, moment by moment. Those who expend their 140 characters establishing where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing, and how they’re feeling about it are missing the point, or one very specific part of the point, of the medium. Twitter is not a rolling Facebook status update with arbitrary limitations of brevity. Whatever you write on Twitter, it is there to be seen, enjoyed or not enjoyed, for that minute fraction of time, fading with time but (with the archive in full effect) never vanishing.

It’s a discursive realm ideally adapted to what might flippantly be entitled “randomness”, and what we might with a bit more consideration call bursts of semi-public out-of-context rhetoric. Twitter shows its own hand; is the word “wit” not nestled snugly in the midst of its name, after all? With the mass spread of the format, the wit at the soul of its brevity has been diminished. But it’s still there if you know where to look, and doesn’t need to be contextualized by the latest pop cultural or current events happenings, either. It doesn’t even need to be intended for the medium by its original utterers.

One of Twitter’s earliest phenomenons demonstrated this privileging of serendipitous non-sequiturs, and two of its best academically-tilted typify its effect. @Horse_ebooks became a widely-followed account when its gnomic and often fragmentary tweets (drawn from equine literature) gained fans for their bizarre and seemingly accidental wisdom or simple quirky unintended comedy. A proliferation of similar “ebooks” accounts has followed, on every conceivable subject and theme.

Anyone in tune with the Twitter scene follows a few of these at least. My two personal favourites feature excerpts from two of academia’s most prominent and peculiar public voices. @zizek_ebooks posts snatches of the thoughts of philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, he of the voluble, lisping Slovenian accent, salt-and-pepper beard, and Lacanian-Marxist intellectual trolling. Despite the ebooks suffix, most of these tweets seem to be drawn from his lectures, television appearances, and films, The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. Although Žižek is a fascinating communicator of ideas (whatever you think of the ideas themselves), being fed his observations absent the arguments that they are a part of is a whole different kind of experience that is rewarding and funny in its own right (even if the postings tend to happen in overwhelming spurts, obviously released in gaps of the custodian’s free time). Certain rhetorical usages recur (“My God”, “Eat this garbage”, “You turn into monkeys”), revealing go-to phrases preferred by Žižek in public speech that might otherwise has slipped by unnoticed, but the dislocated, non-sequiturial nature of the tweets matches the thinker’s own message of deconstruction, as well as amplifying the peculiarity of the stand-alone phrases.

A similar practice animates @Schama_ebooks, although the account tweeting out snatches of verbose narration from the television documentaries of the British historian Simon Schama has its own particular appeal as well. This appeal is also Schama’s, grounded in his habit of expressing relatively straightforward and widely-accepted interpretations of historical events in language of over-the-top vocabulatory eloquence. Although the less-followed account has not produced as much material as the prolific @zizek_ebooks, it evokes Schama’s rhetorical turns much more vividly. The background of the account homepage, a screen still of Schama with a (accidental?) couplet of ridiculous quasi-poetry (“human existence” is rhymed with “luminescence”) sums up his choice of verbiage succinctly, but the archive of “quiescent marital urges” and “throngs of unwashed cavaliers” makes it clearer what the account is about. Both of these ebooks prisms of public intellectual quotations rip words and arguments out of their chosen contexts to be placed in Twitter’s own “random” context, and wring humour out of them while preserving the rhetorical kernels of their unique set of expressions. Who says this medium is limited in its discursive scope?

Representative Tweets:

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