Ben White is the curator of Nanoism, an online publication for Twitter fiction. These are stories that are no longer than 140 characters and contain a depth that can challenge what content lies within 140 pages. This is flash fiction to the extreme. Born and produced on Twitter, any author with an account can try their hand at this craft. The publication has been active since 2009 for Twitter users to submit their material.
I approached Nanoism knowing that I wanted to review Twitter fiction. The dilemma I faced was how to review an unconventional publication whose content is expressly unconventional literature. The publication is set in a blog format, the main page listing every tweet chronologically as if it were an active feed. Access to the tweets is possible through this linear method or by sorting the tweets into a few categories: month of publication, type of tweet, and author.
For the month of November, five such tweets lie together in a thread of grief and anxiety. The stories they tell don’t seem to mean much at a glance but settle on any one of them for a minute or two and a rather dark tale unravels. They are not purposefully connected – each tweet is written by a different author – but a theme emerges nonetheless. What made November so sad?
The first tweet of the month is an illustration of a bedridden child. From the child’s perspective, it dives into the feelings of confusion within someone who has barely begun to live only to face death.
The second tweet follows the thread of human mortality but takes a more morbid approach. Chicken bones becoming a memento mori on the night of a mother’s death, the father and child silently considering the event that has passed and perhaps their own mortality. What is left over after a death? How do people move on?
The fifth tweet of the month illustrates the escapism of a busy body. What is happening in her life that she takes joy in keeping herself from her own thoughts? The anxiety of this tweet is both obvious and hidden. She does not like to have time to think to herself. She finds herself uncomfortable in the moments where she has a free minute to think. The cause of this anxiety is not exactly clear but the emotions are relatable. It is often easier to run away from anxiety rather than to face it, but the ramifications of doing so may create their own problems down the road – so why not keep driving?
Each tweet is skilled in provoking a certain strain of thought about being human
and living inside a human mind. The anxieties that can affect us as we drive, as we repose in sickness, or as we watch an unsettlingly comfortable dance between two individuals. Each tweet is only a brief moment or feeling, ones we might find it easy to brush aside, but they are important to understanding ourselves.
Reaching only a maximum of 140 characters, Twitter fiction is a lesson in the art of brevity. The art of transforming the human experience into a passing thought. The depth of a passing thought, the intricacies that make it weigh heavier than a chapter in a book. These are quotes from the human life.