If writing is a solitary occupation, and society the natural enemy of the writer, Twitter is helping many of the best cheat—to the reader’s advantage. Salman Rushdie takes the greatest delight in responding to trolls, and on display is his spectacular sense of humour. With Teju Cole’s literary experiments on Twitter, one could suddenly see the creative possibilities of a social media platform where things pass you by with the speed of light. And at 76, Margaret Atwood continues to inspire with her openness to new tools to move the literary form and conversations forward.

No surprise then that all three of them feature in the book Tales on Tweet, edited by Manoj Pandey, which also includes tweets from poet Jeet Thayil, parliamentarian and writer Shashi Tharoor and activist Shabnam Hashmi. The illustrated book is a result of a literary experiment started in 2011 by Pandey on Twitter, where he would post epigrams from his novel-in-the-making—which he hopes to publish next year—and tag his favourite authors in the hope that they would critically evaluate his work. Instead, they responded with Twitter tales of their own; something about the form obviously appealed to them. Take Rushdie, for instance: “She died. He followed her into the underworld. She refused to return, preferring Hades. It was a long way to go to be dumped."

Like with Rushdie, in most of the 140 characters stories, there’s a sense of the writers having fun in this forum. Here’s Atwood: “Red footprint, white footprint. An axe in the snow. But no body. Was a large bird involved? He scratched his head and made notes." At the same time, as Pandey points out, “They are masters. There was a definite introduction, body and conclusion in what they wrote." 

Of the thousands of tales on tweet that Pandey has now collected, from bloggers, regular Twitter followers, journalists and human rights activists, he’s now selected 50 for a chapbook published by Harper Collins, each accompanied by an illustration by Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu (who’s obviously frustrated by people constantly mistaking her for the other Yuko Shimizu who created Hello Kitty). Some are plain funny, others horrify and several make you pause.

It’s not the end of the Twitter road for Pandey. Enthused by the success of his experiment and possibly inspired by science fiction writer China Melville, he is now working on an edition with a focus on horror stories. Here’s one already with a brilliant twist by Adithi Mathur Kumar: “She dreamt of him coming back to her. She woke up and there he was, smiling. Sometimes nightmares do come true."

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