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Twitterature, the Classics and where the joke lies

From Will Hammond, our editor at Viking/Penguin:

Say the word Twitter to a book lover and they will probably roll their eyes at you and sigh. Some of the greatest works of literature - Homer's Iliad, Dante's Inferno, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Richardson's Clarissa, Joyce's Ulysses - are long, sometimes difficult and often challenging. Twitter is the opposite: a free-for-all of voices clamouring for a split-second's attention with zero quality control. This is what makes Twitterature so funny: huge books made ridiculously small; great stories told in silly voices. Like all good pastiche, Twitterature skewers the original work with pin-point accuracy - mocking its grandiosity, exposing absurd coincidences of plotting, parodying its subject's ticks, slips and oddities. The difference, though, and what makes this little collection particularly enjoyable, is that the joke falls just as heavily (well, probably more so) on Twitter. In a face-off between Shakespeare's Macbeth and his Twitter avatar 'BigMac', it's fairly clear who comes off looking worse. So, in a curious way, Twitterature is just as much a celebration of the classics as it is a mockery of them.

What also appeals to us about Twitterature is that while it is most certainly not a serious book, it is, we think, a clever book, a funny book and also a very Penguin book. Penguin's founder Allen Lane took the view that there was a huge untapped readership for great works of literature, so he set about making the classics available to them in cheap editions that the majority of people could actually afford. Hardbacks became paperbacks; huge books became pocket-size. Twitterature takes this logic and pushes it one step further: it reduces the contents, too. As you'll see from the cover, the joke is at our expense as much as anyone's.


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