A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 17 – Black Box

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day seventeen – Black Box, by Jennifer Egan
Read it online here:

The Tweets that comprise the story Black Box collected at Paste Magazine

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Egan ever since reading (and writing about) A Visit From the Goon Squad. I had avoided that book because I didn’t like the look of the title, but once I dove in I loved the idea of interconnected short, short stories. The stories are arranged in a web across time, space, and a diverse group of characters. Fun.

The sort of thing I would like to do.

I have never been a big fan of Twitter. I send out notices of my journal entries and I use it to locate food trucks and things to do – or web sites to visit. I don’t like the fact that so many celebrities and, especially, politicians use it almost exclusively to send out their thoughts and ideas.

140 characters is simply not enough for the complexity and subtlety of the human condition. Mass communication using Twitter is laziness.

A couple years ago these two things came together. Jennifer Egan wrote a short story and sent it out, 140 characters at a time, over Twitter. it ran over ten nights on the New Yorker‘s NYerFiction account. Now, that’s interesting.

Especially when I looked into it and saw how much work she put into the project. It took her a year to write the piece – writing it out in longhand in Japanese notebooks printed with little boxes.

Jennifer Egan's handwritten version of the Twitter Short Story "Black Box."

Jennifer Egan’s handwritten version of the Twitter Short Story “Black Box.”

It’s a hypermodern spy story – chopped up with high tech gadgetry, a bevy of beauties, and a luxurious terrorist hideout.

I’m not sure if this experiment is an unqualified success. I wish I could have read it on its original ten-night airing – all those tweets in one sitting is a bit much. Still, it’s pretty cool and I’d like to consider how to break up a story into such tiny bites.

Here’s some more ordinary fiction from Jennifer Egan – if you like:


Ask Me If I Care

The opening of Jennifer Egan's Twitter Short Story "Black Box."

The opening of Jennifer Egan’s Twitter Short Story “Black Box.”