Books

Twitterature


Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

Publisher: Penguin
Length: 244 pages
Author: Alexander Aciman and Emmett L. Rensin
Price: $12.00
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 2009-12
Amazon

Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less is really funny. If you don’t think about it too much.

Twitterature is what you get when you combine great literature and the social networking program, Twitter. Authors and University of Chicago students Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin coined the term and provide a more formal definition: “amalgamation of ‘twitter’ and ‘literature’; humorous reworkings of literary classics for the 21st century intellect, in digestible portions of 20 tweets of fewer”.

Aciman and Rensin turn over 70 classic texts along with Twilight and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” into twitterature. Most pieces are narrated (or tweeted) by the main character of the original text, but these characters have been adapted to the Twitter world. Gulliver’s Travels is narrated by @LittleBigMan and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is narrated by @NotoriousDOC. Romeo and Juliet has two narrators: @DefNotAHomeo and @JulieBaby.

Several of the entries are quite clever. Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, narrated by @bugged-out, is particularly well done with tweets like “Sorry no updates. Bug time is weird. Lose track” and “REPEAT: THERE IS AN APPLE LODGED IN MY ... BACK!” With lines like “I am a strange old man. Perhaps I will grow a beard” and “I have caught a fish, and he is grand”, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea also translates nicely into tweets.

My personal favorite, though, has to be On the Road. It contains only one tweet, which reads “For TWITTERATURE of On the Road by Jack Kerouac, please see On the Road by Jack Kerouac”.

Still, I can only enjoy the book Twitterature if I don’t think about it too much. If I start thinking about it too much, I start worrying: what if twitterature is the only way great literature can be understood by today’s high school and college students? What if, as the authors assert, no one has time to read “those big long books anymore”? What if, again as Aciman and Rensin claim, Twitterature gives “you everything you need to master the literature of the civilized world”? These thoughts bring about the usual clichéd responses: my heart races, my palms turn clammy, and I break into a light sweat.

Even worse, when I start thinking about Twitterature too much, I start analyzing the tweets, and I wonder if a modern day Pip (Great Expectations) would really curse that much or whether or not the twitterature version of King Lear would have been stronger if it would have included tweets from @fool.

In the end, I have to believe, if only to save my own sanity, that Twitterature was written as a satire and that Aciman and Rensin are this generation’s Jonathan Swift. If I believe this, I can believe that when they state “In brief -- and we mean this literally -- we have created our generation’s salvation, a new and revolutionary way of facing and understanding the greatest art of all arts: Literature”, they are really silently laughing at all the students in the world who will probably try to pass exams and write papers based off what they learned from Twitterature.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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