Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

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 Originally published in Literal: Latin American Voices / Voces Latinoamericanas #17 The social network. Digital utopia / Las redes sociales. Utopía digital. Summer 2009.

The literary emphemeralistas of our age have turned to twitter. Visit www.twitter.com, type in your e-mail address, your made-up password, and username, and— that's it— you're good to go. What is twitter? As of this writing (April 2009), the home page explains:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

And for an answer, you're allotted 140 characters per entry. A multitude of both literary and nonliterary "tweeters" have taken this literally, alas. Herewith, twitter addresses removed, a couple of morsels I happened to fish out of the Niagara of incoming tweets in the early hours of April 17, 2009:

Okay, I'm going to try again to go raw. I'm eating fresh organic melon for my bedtime snack instead of coconut balls.

Pondering my weird dinner: homemade turkeyburgers and side of broccoli stir-fried with lemongrass, garlic, and eggplant chutney

Not that I know these tweeters personally. The idea is, you follow other tweeters and they follow you, and no need for a roof for an introduction. You can block individual tweeters from following you, however. Over time, you build and accumulate a network. If you choose. You can "unfollow" certain "tweeters; they can "unfollow" you. I realize this sounds crassly juvenile. But consider: a line with 140 characters that goes to all your followers... et voilà, a broadcast medium:

@nytimesbooks Clement Freud, Wit, Politician and Grandson of Famous Psychoanalyst, Dies at 84 http://bit.ly/I639

But you can reply, so it might become a conversation.

@madammayo @tameme hola

@tameme @madammayo hola 2 u 2

Except when it isn't. @litchat, for example, conducts interviews. I did one recently about my novel. A couple of the questions (which I answered at the speed of typing):

@insidebooks Recently read 2666 by Roberto Bolano and Mexico is a cruel strange place in that book. Do you find it a difficult country?

@trishheylady What was the hardest part of the bk 2 write? You obvs did research, but @ some point you have to imagine how things happnd.

But what enchants me is that a tweet can be a form of poetry (twiku) or fiction (twiction).

@c_m_mayo Following no one, having no followers, she was like the woman in the back closet, grumbling at the blankets, existing on mothballed air

There's no period at the end of that sentence because I'd used up my allotment of characters. Fster than a wlnut cn roll dwn t roof of a hen house, were gng 2 see t nd of cvlizatn

Twitter can also serve as a micro-blog within a blog— just plug in the widget. But enough already.

So what is twitter, really? I put out a tweet for some tweets from the tweeters. A sampling of replies:

@trhummer Twitter is an aphorism machine.

@HollyridgePress Twitter is a glittering sunrise with our books in the clouds.

@mdemuth Twitter is a confined space I can hang one hat of words upon

@Sandra_Gulland Twitter is "poetry of the mundane" @ChetG, Page Six magazine.

@lisaborders Twitter is a message in a bottle that sometimes gets answered.

Follow C.M. Mayo on twitter

@madammayo (for the blog)