Twitter Wit: A Review

Twitter Wit is not the first book of little things; it is another crowd-sourced cousin to the likes of The Truth About Chuck Norris and the Six-Word Memoirs series. There must be an almost irresistible urge to collect a bunch of small things and make a big thing, like stacking the sugar packets at the diner to make a sweet, delectable pyramid.

The longest single continuous piece of writing in the book is the foreword by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. It is a nice and safe and not unpleasant bit of writing, though both it and the introduction (yes, a foreword and an introduction) by Nick Douglas are not mind-blowing essays. They merely give the underlying rationale for the book and why people should take it seriously, which I interpret as—

Brevity is the soul of wit. People are funny, and they are funny on Twitter, perhaps uniquely so, because people who are probably not funny all the time feel compelled to up their game instead of contributing to our collective societal preoccupation with ourselves and anyone, anyone, can be a comic genius for a ‘tweet’ or two (if they write enough of them). Or, at least if you’re going to contribute to our downfall-by-breakfast-menu, be good at it.

Does this book succeed? In its quest to highlight amusing things, clever puns, and wry, sharp-witted observations—yes. In its quest to show that the one-liner is a classic form that continues to thrive—also yes. Are these really the funniest tweets on Twitter? Assuredly not, but they are clearly hand-selected and reflect the editor’s taste as to his favorites. You can’t really ask for more from an anthology.

What this book does not do (and may never have set out to do) is create a cohesive “book” experience. Twitter Wit is a collection of funny tweets, organized according to some rubric that I can’t guess (perhaps at random). Some tweets are clever puns with no real staying power. Some are cutting observations that really make a point. Some are funny miniature stories. Some I don’t even really get. Quality, style, significance all vary wildly. Everything is lumped together.

You could easily read Twitter Wit from cover to cover in one sitting, but the individual pieces would mostly blur together, and you likely wouldn’t even appreciate the best of them by the end. Your mind would be numb. Anyone can read one story for an hour or two. But can you read 300 smaller stories in an hour? You shouldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to you or to them.

This is a bathroom reader. This book begs to be read a page or two at a time and then put down. Appreciate the thought that went into the entries. Anything this short seems easy. When you read too much you absorb too little, and soon you’re just reading sentences.

It is, in the end, an amusing read. No matter what the topic—from humor to literature and anything in between—Twitter contains thoughtful, concise bits of writing that are worth reading. A book like Twitter Wit is essential as an Lose Weight Exercise in separating the wheat from the chaff, attenuating the noise, and providing a filter to show the otherwise uninvolved that interesting things are going here.

One Comment

David Shrock 09.07.09 Reply

Nice review. I’m certain I’ll take a look at the book someday, but in no hurry. Reading a page at a time sounds like the way to go. That’s what I like about Twitter. I group all the story authors and publications so I can read the stream, getting a good taste before the next story comes along. Perhaps this book will generate more interest in Twitter publications. Or at least let others know there is more on Twitter than people describing their breakfast.

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