The Rumpus Mini-Interview with Dan Baum

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Over the past few days, ex-New Yorker staff writer Dan Baum has received a lot of attention by rehashing the details of his dismissal in 140-character Twitter missives.

I spoke with Dan Baum via email about his decision to use Twitter as the form for his tale.

The Rumpus: Why did you choose Twitter as the medium for your story?

Dan Baum: I was intrigued by the idea of micro-serialization. Serialized stories have long been popular. This takes the form to a ridiculously atomized state. My story is of interest to media types, who also seem to be a population tuned into Twitter, so form fit function. If what I’m reading is correct, many people try Twitter for a short time and then give it up. That tells me it may not be around long, so this was a chance to try this while the art form still existed. Finally, as someone pointed out, there is something ironic about writing about the New Yorker — the avatar of long-form — in 140-character chunks.

The Rumpus: How does Twitter’s form (its “140 character chunks”) impact your telling of the story?

Dan Baum: Aside from the head-scratching media buzz it created, writing in 140-character chunks turns prose into a kind of free verse. I admit I wasn’t hip to this the first day, when I broke sentences in the middle, driving a lot of people nuts. I read the commentary on the blogs, and several people suggested — yea, demanded — that I not do that. When you have to have a period every 140 characters or less, it changes your word choice and imposes a certain poetic rigor on the language. I’ve enjoyed that.


Steven Tagle is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He produces short-form documentaries for Current TV, and his work has appeared in Leland Quarterly, Word Choice, and Rainy Day. He is finishing his first novel. More from this author →