When writer-illustrator Manoj Pandey began tagging his favourite authors like Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Teju Cole seeking their feeds to his tweets, little did he know that their responses would be micro stories in themselves.
Pandey tweeted out a story. Then some more. And others began tweeting tales right back at him: Atwood and Kabir Bedi with death tales, Rushdie and Jeet Thayil with their dark humour, Cole meditating on loneliness, Shashi Tharoor on India, Prajwal Parajuly on literature… It was a literary moment of the sort: spontaneous, changeable, tangential and then, just like Twitter itself, surprisingly poignant in bursts and flashes.
But it was when these stories came together with Yuko Shimizu’s phantasmagorical images that a book titled “Tales on Tweet” stepped off the scrollable vortex of a web page and into the tactile intimacy of the reading experience.
These tales, not long than 140 characters, explore the dramatic potential of brevity through micro-narratives that
build worlds, bring them down, laugh at death, mourn the moon.
“Tales on Tweet”, published by HarperCollins India in a ‘micro’ size, has 98 micro stories.
Here’s Rushdie’s: “She died. He followed her into the underworld. She refused to return, preferring Hades. It was a
long way to go to be dumped.”
“Night again?/These blinking dots on our machines/ A tribe of orphaned fireflies/ ‘I’m here’/’I’m here’/’I’m here'” tweets Cole.
Atwood’s story goes on like this: “Red footprint, white footprint. An axe in the snow. But no body. Was a large bird involved? He scratched his head and made notes.”
“Tales on Tweet”, says Pandey, began with chimeric ambitions of inculcating a writing style of the ilk of Oscar Wilde, in the summer of 2011.
“By then, I was already tinkering with Twitter and using it as a byte-sized diary to gauge if what I wrote had any merit at all. My tales lacked details, characters and the general essence of a story. Rather, they were pithy sentences crafted to reveal one poignant detail. But,to me, the experiment carried the satisfaction of an epigram and all the ambiguity that is true of every kind of storytelling,” he says.