Demonstrating a profound commitment to dead trees and bookstores, Penguin is releasing Twiterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter. The book consists of comments on the works of William Shakespeare and other classics. University of Chicago students Emmett Rensin and Alexander Aciman are the book’s authors tweeters, sharing their irreverent and profane – and sometimes insightful – 140 character-or-less thoughts on the playwright known to anyone who’s completed at least a year of high school.
If you’re thinking that this could be a great study aid … well, you deserve to use it as such. On Inferno, by Dante, the book offers: “I’m having a midlife crisis. Lost in the woods. Shoulda brought my iPhone.” Parents can expect to welcome home children who use this to cram for finals, because they’ll have their kids living in the basement for a very, very long time.
Some of the gags are utterly predictable, such as labeling Macbeth “Big Mac,” though a report by Reuters does seem to insist that there’s some good stuff between the covers.
The true lesson of this new book involves Penguin more than it does the students or its eventual readers. The publisher clearly sees the potential of the social media space and wants to tap into the Twitter phenomenon – on its own terms. In the end, this is just another attempt by the print world to hang onto its precious paper, despite the fact that electrons are taking over.