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Catching Twitter by its tale: Tales on Tweet unravels 140 character yarns

Jhinuk Sen | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

That cliched brevity was once just the soul of wit.

Now it is the soul of pretty much everything we want to understand.

Please pay attention, it is just 140 characters. Or you will miss these flashes of love stories that the insipid black keys are feeding you.

One tweet at a time.

"The typewriter devoured letters. It had vowels for breakfast, consonants for lunch and sometimes the whole alphabet for dinner."

Tales on Tweet comes to you from that constantly re-inventing but oh-so-familiar Twitterverse, edited and curated by Manoj Pandey.

Illustrated by Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu, Pandey's 'chimeric ambitions' gain front and font in this new-age illustrated short fiction. A collection of tweets sent in by authors who Pandey tags with #talesontweet .

As the elusive hashtag took over Twitter, stories started pouring in and as the editor puts it - "It was a defining moment - the beginning of a new form of storytelling." And then there was the book.

With names like Margaret Atwood, Teju Cole, Salman Rushdie, Jeet Thayil, Nilanjana S Roy, Laurence O Bryan, Shashi Tharoor, the hundred and a few pages pack little images from 98 wordsmiths.

The tweets wrap stories, thoughts and images into those 140 characters, or less, and come to life through Shimizu's illustrations.

Yuko Shimizu

Word after word

"Night again?

These blinking dots on our machines

A tribe of orphaned fireflies

'I'm here'

'I'm here'

'I'm here'" tweets Teju Cole. And you can smell the slightly chilly night air laced with grime, smog and some dark molasses life dregs.

Nilanjana S Roy gives you a vengeful god - "She likes editing surplus characters. Delete! Out! Delete! Out! '7 sudden deaths today.' They pray to their gods for mercy."

Yuko Shimizu

And some love

Pit this against Jeet Thayil's prayer - "So this is how it ends. You wake in moonlight to the sound of Chinese percussion: your voice saying her name, ah kang sha."

As loose feathers flit past Shimizu's wire mesh, Kerry Manzo sighs, "It wasn't in the wind or the weather, but in the merciless dancing of the leaves that he knew his world had ended."

And then for a brief moment - editor turns author - to tweet out some haunting melodies.

"The hollow reed was still asleep when the musician cut its throat to make an instrument out of it. The music of its ghost drove him insane."

Yuko Shimizu

Some darkness

But then it is not all love (unrequited if you are lucky, it turns you into a poet) and ache, there are darker times that ring true through some blood-red tweets.

"With thousands screaming for his blood and his imminent demise, he looked out onto the mob and said, '...and I'd do it again.'" writes Firas Janabi.

Shabnam Hashmi narrates - "They didn't know whether it was day or night, the torture continued; he wanted them to accept that they were terrorists."

While Jite Efemuaye shows you, "The fire truck crawled, trailing a cloud of black smoke, to douse a pile of ashes, once a school." And Quetta, the Valley, Syria...all come rushing in to blind you.

Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu

And a smug smile

And then there is dry sarcasm, stripped away to its bare 140 and flung out - "The cycle rickshaw scratched past Chatterjee's car. 'These bloody migrants!' he yelled, turning for his residence in CR Park." (Safwan Amir)

"He disliked No.11, scored through it with a sharp stone. 'They'll never know,' Moses said to himself." (Ian Murphy).

Go ahead. Laugh a little -Hahahahaha (That's just 10 characters. Imagine what you can do with the 130 you have left).

Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu

You will smirk at moments, sigh at others, at some you will feel a tightness in your chest even after the page has been turned. Perhaps you will think of it later and even cry...like Fathima Imamuddin.

"She wept silently everyday on the train. Finally I asked, 'Is it because you have nowhere to go?' 'No, I have nowhere to cry.'"

And then you will close the book with a deep breath. It's the Twitterverse and perhaps if you look long enough, you will see little atoms of stories joining together in tweets and some retweets.

But, then. It's Twitter. Perhaps you should run?

"Midway through life, I found myself in a dark wood. The usual suspects has made it there before me. I got out as fast as I could." (Wendy Law-Yone)

Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu
Yuko Shimizu
First published: 13 August 2016, 10:27 IST