On Monday, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell began tweeting a short story called “The Right Sort” in multiple daily installments, compiled by Sceptre Books, readable from the top down. Set to conclude today, the story takes the Valium-filtered perspective of a young teen in 1970s England. BBC Radio 4 spoke with Mitchell, who only recently joined Twitter, about his decision to write in this unlikely medium (what some have called “twiction”). Mitchell cited his upcoming book, The Bone Clocks, as the initial cause for his move onto social media. But then he found himself wanting to do something more with the outlet. Once he decided to write a story, he found an organic reason for the form—as he explains it, the Valium has the narrator thinking in tweets, short little “throbs” and “pulses” that fall naturally into the 140-character limit. He further described his process:
With Twitter, it’s less like a balloon flight where you look down and see the page of text, and more like a train ride with a very narrow window through rapidly changing landscapes and tunnels. You can’t see it all at once. But I like tight straitjackets because it forces that act of escapology. Maybe you actually need this fairly ridiculous 140-character limit to be obliged to work out something new.
While Mitchell told readers there are no plot connections between “The Right Sort” and The Bone Clocks, he did say the two dwell in the same story world where “possibly the clause of mortality that’s written into the contract of life is negotiable.”
Margaret Atwood wrote a tribute for the Guardian in honor of the late Nadine Gordimer. The Nobel-prize winning South African writer died in her sleep last weekend at the age of 90. Calling Gordimer “evergreen,” “ageless,” and an “inspiration to all writers,” Atwood spoke of the balance of the political with the personal in Gordimer’s works.
As she often does, Atwood cuts to the heart of Gordimer’s writing and life:
But underneath all her work is the question posed in Ursula K. LeGuin’s well- known story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas:” if you know that the beautiful manner of living you yourself enjoy is built on a foundation of misery deliberately imposed on innocents, can you in conscience do nothing? Her own answer was always no.
Over the course of her career, Gordimer wrote more than 200 short stories and 15 novels, as well as several essay collections. She was said to have helped edit Nelson Mandela’s powerful and gut-wrenching “I Am Prepared to Die” speech that he gave at the beginning of his 1964 trial on charges of sabotage.
If you’re looking for a way to illuminate the politics of your surroundings in your fiction without getting didactic, have a listen to Deborah Treisman and Tessa Hadley in thoughtful conversation and reading one of Gordimer’s stories of apartheid, “City Lovers,” over at The New Yorker Fiction Podcast.