A skillful artist can make amazing things out of toothpicks and glue. Self-taught Wayne Kusy builds ships like the Titanic and Lusitania. His twenty-five feet long model of the Queen Mary required 814,000 toothpicks and nineteen gallons of wood glue. Patrick Acton’s representational work with matchsticks earned his sculpture gallery the title of “Iowa Tourism’s Attraction of the Year” in 2007 (check out his timely “Hogwarts” piece). And UK artist David Mach uses the business end of matchsticks to create a uniquely colorful take on this art form.
Each of these artists pulls together small scraps to make a much larger united whole. And apparently, that’s what San Francisco novelist Matt Stewart is doing as he publishes what he claims to be the first novel released 140 characters at a time through Twitter.
“The French Revolution” will require upwards of 3,700 tweets to get the entire book out, an effort that has earned him invaluable press for a writer struggling to get his work noticed. But only the novelty of the action merits coverage; in the end, 3,700 tweets do not aggregate into one piece in the same powerful way that 814,000 toothpicks aggregate into a twenty-five foot sculpture. There is no final product, nothing to hold, nothing to skim, nothing to quickly re-read to refresh your take on a character, at least, not without a great deal of cutting and pasting.
So the story here is not that publishers have discovered a new manner to distribute their work. Instead, it is yet another example of Clay Shirky’s theme of amateur empowerment through reducing the traditional cost of distribution, with the web usurping the role of the printing press for little to no transactional cost to Mr. Stewart.
Remarkable? Yes, rather. Sustainable? Not really.