Selected Tweets (Book Review)

Selected Tweets , by Mira Gonzalez and Tao Lin. Published by Short Flight/Long Drive Books.

Selected Tweets, by Mira Gonzalez and Tao Lin. Published by Short Flight/Long Drive Books.

I first encountered Mira Gonzalez’s poetry in college when her first book, I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together, had a certain kind of ring to an insecure, just turned twenty-year-old. Her poetry has a self-awareness to it that made me feel less alone in poor decision making, especially since she takes way more drugs than I ever will. This emotional quality resonated with me, being an educated twenty something with a job, an internship, and on track to graduate from an excellent college, but still somehow feeling lost in the world. I read Tao Lin’s works for the exact opposite reason; while Mira seems to care despite her insistence that she doesn’t, Tao is completely estranged from his emotions. His characters interact with each other in a detached, selfish manner, not that far off from people I know. Their work functions in a similar way within the “alt lit” category, but each have a different effect emotionally.

Selected Tweets, a collaboration between Mira Gonzalez and Tao Lin, is not new content, as all their tweets are freely accessible on their twitter accounts, but somehow the thought of combing through thousands and thousands of tweets and crafting two hundred pages of a timeline seemed like something that would speak to me differently than reading twitter on my phone during my lunch breaks or scrolling through it while trying to drag myself out of bed in the morning. They start pulling tweets from 2010 and end in 2014, using tweets from multiple twitter accounts they run. These multiple twitter accounts are meant to track different moods of the writers; for example, Mira has a @Miracrying account for her depressed tweets and @Miraunedited for her NSFW tweets. The tweets track the two writers from New York to California, through bad drug trips and live tweeting movies, all boiled down to spare thoughts strung together in a crafted timeline.

I started reading Selected Tweets straight out of a hangover from my 23rd birthday party. I had been whining about turning twenty-three for the past month, mostly because a) it makes me feel too old to be making the same mistakes I’ve been making, now that I’ve graduated and have a full time job, and b) I should have my life much more together than it actually is now that I’m supposed to be a “real person” at 23. Throughout reading I had to take anxiety naps on my parents’ couch, stressing about the security deposit on a new apartment and work emergencies coming through my email. Taking notes on the same iPhone note as an in-depth breakdown of my finances seemed appropriate until I grew jealous of the fact that the writers could afford drugs and their rent.

Mira’s first tweets on her main account sound like typical college student tweets. I’ve had the same conversations, but in the dining hall, not on social media. She writes these tweets as stream of consciousness; they don’t seem as fully formed as the later tweets. As the months and years progress, she starts to get wittier and her tweets start to resemble her work, becoming fully edited and thought out. There is a traceable timeline through her life starting with college, dropping out, moves, and job changes. She doesn’t shy away from posting heavy topics on social media: the boys she sleeps with, the drugs she does, and all as explicit as a late night bar conversation. It somehow works, maybe because they mostly deal with insecurity and depression, and the self-awareness of insecurity and depression. With appearances by her eating disorders and her emotional unavailability, reading her tweets is like spiraling into the darkest corner of early twenty something life, but it works as a relatable timeline.

Her thoughts on everyday life and pop culture have a sly humor to them. Among my favorite tweets, even before reading this book, are when she harnesses Drake lyrics to her depression. One of the best ones, “no old friends either”, takes what should have been a celebratory lyric and makes it about being lonely. Who hasn’t listened to Drake’s music and felt the angsty “I’m better than you” feeling and then realized that actually, you aren’t Drake. I’m pretty sure none of the people I hang out with started from the bottom; can we feel we can celebrate being here? Then again, I’m not sure Drake started from the bottom either.

She tweets about her lack of emotion, and the very fact that she draws attention to it proves just the opposite. Her sexual adventures showcase the gender differences: even though she sleeps around like a guy, there is a different way she discusses it as a girl tweeting. My own last “romantic” encounter closely resembled her tweet, “Ramble nonstop until the person gets overwhelmed and stops paying attention to you.” She obviously cares about what this other person thinks of her, and what Twitter as a whole thinks of her; however, showing her detachment makes it ok to be broken off and unavailable.

I may be speaking for myself or simply the group I surround myself in, but her tweets are a good estimation of the feelings of those trying to pursue something greater than the typical, and the selfishness of choosing your own emotions over anyone else’s. A close relationship may lock you out of pursuing your own interests. Depression from not being good enough or not creating the art you want to make. Eating or not eating your way into looking the way you think you should. Mira is smart, funny, and talented, which shines through in seemingly inconsequential tweets.

When I got to Tao Lin’s section, he provided a different challenge. While I could piece together Mira’s tweets to a semi-story and connect with them, Tao’s were too fragmented, too much like thoughts and not enough substance to hold my attention. He is more disconnected than Mira, less emotionally observant. His humor is different than hers, and I think taken better as actual tweets. I was a little drained reading them pieced together for pages. His tweets range from describing dreams (they feel bleak), his thoughts on the world (“sperm whale are kind of shaped like Xanax bars”), to his immediate actions, including minute details into his eating habits. It’s like reading stream of consciousness writing, except of someone who is consistently high.

Tao's thoughts border on existential, and he is less self-centered than Mira. Although he recounts his random actions, it comes from a place outside of his own experience, and from a place of his interactions within the world he lives in. It works less when put together in a book form, however, as it becomes tiresome to read his collected thoughts. They started to blend together, and I began to skim while reading, nothing sticking out in my mind. His different accounts are confusing as well. I almost wish the accounts were presented as a single timeline. At the end of Tao’s section comes his poetry from the notes on his iPhone. The notes don’t differ much from his tweets; he states several time how he is experimenting with stream of consciousness. I think that these notes work as well as his Twitter account, which is what makes it so amusing to read on Twitter. I much prefer to read his thoughts as tidbits while scrolling through my feed, as it functions more as a thought and holds my attention longer than in a collected work. I also may have absorbed his philosophical wisdom if I had read it in an altered state of mind.

In between scrolling through the 400 pages of tweets on my iPad and mainlining massive amounts of water, reading these tweets years later, I realized not much has changed since I started reading Gonzalez’s and Lin’s previous works at twenty. I still drink too much when overwhelmed emotionally, I still shut down when someone upsets me, I still have a fascination with the unattainable. But reading these tweets as a collected group is a comfort because we don’t have to figure these things out. I’m sure someone meeting Tao or Mira would picture them as semi-functioning people (they both are able to pay their rent?) but they use Twitter as an outlet for their darkest thoughts and emotions, which is not that far out from those who seem to have it all together.

Selected Tweets is available from Hobart Books. Review copy provided by the authors. You can follow @Tao_Lin and @miragonz on Twitter.

Brittani Hilles works as a book cheerleader (or in publicity) at Macmillan. Her hobbies are networking, gin, and depressing literature. She rarely tweets at @bch248 and will respond to an email at probably sooner than a text.