A few thoughts about Twitter. Twitter is a fascinating platform. It can generate a global community of followers. It can bring us closer to the authors whose work we love - we can read the thoughts of Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, John Green, Neil Gaiman in real time. We can share them in a click, reply and sometimes, amazingly, they even respond to us.
Twitter promises instant feedback, both positive and negative, on questions and ideas. It brings us a little closer to the minds of our favorite writers, whose words appear in our stream alongside those of friends and colleagues, other cultural icons and publications.
The medium, like all media, has its biases. The brevity of the messages encourages generalization, cryptic comments and pithy one liners. It's not very good at depth; that's why many authors on Twitter also have blogs or Facebook pages, where they can put more nuanced ideas and opinions. These are, after all, novelists. They are accustomed to exploring ideas at a length of their own choosing, through carefully chosen language.
However, it's a flexible platform, and people can use it as they choose.
Bret Easton Ellis has chosen to use it mostly as an extension of his provocative public persona. He has previously described himself as a "social satirist", and he often writes bold, strong statements on his Twitter feed that seem designed to generate anger and get attention.
After all, this is a man whose work has led to him receiving death threats and boycotts, while many of the books themselves have ended up bestsellers. He's a public figure, and beyond his long-form fiction and interviews, Twitter is his current medium.
His Twitter feed has 335,000 followers. He puts out a variety of different tweets, not all of them provocative. But its the provocative ones that we in the media have been eating up.
Last year, he compared watching TV show Glee to "stepping in a puddle of HIV." Last month, he said on Twitter that an actor was too openly gay to play a heterosexual character. In July he called an unpopular figure "a complete and total old-school fucking Hollywood loser." When JD Salinger died, he tweeted "Yeah!! Thank God he's finally dead. I've been waiting for this day for-fucking-ever. Party tonight!!!" Today he called David Foster Wallace (who didn't like Easton Ellis's work either) "the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation."
These are charged statements that deserve exploration and discussion. But Easton Ellis doesn't respond to people on his feed, nor does he build on any of these ideas elsewhere.
Of course that's his right. It's his Twitter feed. But it's also anti-social behavior, and though following it does generate a certain morbid fascination, we've now grown a little tired of how he uses the platform (and we're not the only ones). Among his one-way conversations, he throws out these lines, people get briefly upset, and we pick it up, thereby amplifying his most hurtful remarks. Well, not any more.
We say: go follow him on Twitter if you're looking for his latest provocation, because we on the Books section of The Huffington Post aren't going to cover his micro invectives any more.
If and when he posts something actually substantive, we might consider reporting it, but for now, unless he has more to say than 140-character insults and teases, we've decided to pass on letting our page become another megaphone for his short-form, often aggressive attention grabbers.
Two years ago, in an interview with VICE magazine, he said
Always look at the art, not the artist.
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