"Tweet the book!" thought Kerry Israel, Audience Development Manager at the American Repertory Theater, in a burst of inspiration.
She was brainstorming a way to use social media to promote "Gatz," the current production on at their Loeb Drama Center, which presents the entire word-for-word text of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, "The Great Gatsby." Presented in two parts, the play has a total runtime of about six and a half hours.
The idea: go small. On the stream @ARTGatz, they are presenting the full text of the novel via Twitter, one 140-character tweet at a time. As of this writing, the stream has 129 followers.
"One blogger’s headline about ‘Gatz,’" said Israel, "was â€˜Not for the Twitter Generation.’ I think we may have proven him wrong here."
ARTGatz followers can expect to receive a piece of the novel every 15-20 minutes, generally between the hours of 10am and 11pm "when users are most active," Israel said. The stream is managed by an intern using a Twitter application which pre-programs tweets, a method Israel says she would never use for normal promotions but which may be the only practical way to execute this novel feat.
What can be gained by experiencing this great work of literature in a byte-sized digital format?
"I think people will gain an appreciation for the language," said Israel, "and this is where the two concepts connect. It is about the language. Seeing one of the tweets come across your screen you realize just how poetic Fitzgerald’s text truly is."
Certainly the punctuation of a tweet changes the aesthetic:
"Daisy was popular in Chicago. They moved w/ a fast crowd, all of them young&rich&wild, but she came out w/ an absolutely perfect reputation," one tweet reads.
In some cases, the 140-character break simply cannot be completed neatly, as in, "If he left the room for a minute she’d look around uneasily, and say: â€˜Where’s Tom gone?’ and wear the mos (cont) http://tl.gd/1jfmc."
But other times, breaking the text into epigamic or even haiku-like nuggets really does draw attention to the sharpness of Fitzgerald’s sentences.
"…and half an hour later, when we walked out of the room, the pearls were around her neck and the incident was over," followed by, "Next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver."
It can emphasize the power of his imagery; "She wouldn’t let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet ball…"; or his pearls of wisdom, "Perhaps because she doesn’t drink. It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people," informs one tweet, followed by "You can hold your tongue &, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody is so blind they don’t see or care."
Toward the end of his career, Fitzgerald labored feverishly to write a commercial Hollywood film, the dominant popular art form of his time. His attempts floundered and he did not live to see a version of “Gatsby” grace the silver screen (it finally happened in 1974). Whether or not he would have been proud to see his words transmitted through Twitter is hard to say. It can safely be assumed, however, that leaning over his iPhone, martini in hand, a tweet or two at least would inspire the writer to "LOL."
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