Margaret Atwood Has 319017 Followers On Twitter

Jacob Severn

Margaret Atwood's Press Photo

This week, the PEN World Voices Festival celebrates international literature with a shitload of panel discussions between writers from all over the world. I don't know why I went to see Margaret Atwood talk about the relationship between literature and technology. I guess it just seemed like a thing a person does. Atwood holds the distinction of being a hella old writer who embraces technology. In her talk, she said she likes the fact that young writers are incorporating new media into their work. She talked a lot about her own twitter account, how great it's been to use it to connect with fans and contemporaries.

When I got home, I took a quick look at what @MargaretAtwood has been up to on Twitter. It was as boring and self-congratulatory as her talk, a jumble of links, @s and #s. Had I ever read any of Atwood's fiction, this probably wouldn't have surprised me, but I was taken aback by the idea that this is what a famous writer thinks they should be doing on Twitter. There were lots of words, but I didn't see any writing.

I'm consistently surprised at how few writers use Twitter to create new work in an engaging way that's specific to the medium. An artistic community so famously wrapped up in ideas concerning economy of language should be all over this, right? I'm also surprised at the volume of Twitter users who are doing something new with the form, but seemingly don't produce writing outside of the 140-character text box.

Here are five published authors who are good at Twitter, with representative tweets:

Blake Butler

Mark Leidner


Patricia Lockwood

Mark Baumer

Gene Morgan

And here are five Twitter users that I wish wrote books, with a few of their gems:

@Leemanish

@UtilityLimb

@dril

@thatsnotkosher

@ConorTripler

Maybe the thing I admire most about my Twitter heroes is that their talents are too specific to Twitter for them to be considered literary. Maybe I envy how unconcerned with this they seem. Maybe I spend almost as much time looking at Favstar as I spend looking at books. Maybe I feel guilty about this, or maybe I just feel guilty about how not-guilty I feel about this.

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