What does Mark Twain think of the events of this week?
Check his Twitter feed.
A close reading of his tweets shows that Mr. Samuel Clemens has an opinion about the teacher’s strike and the anti-American violence in the Middle East. Perhaps the reports of his death have, indeed, been greatly exaggerated.
Of course, Twain isn’t the only late author tweeting his or her opinions—in fact, the social network is packed with them.
From William Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, here are 10 deceased writers worth following on Twitter:
The inimitable American writer has his fair share of Twitter accounts, but @TheMarkTwain
and its more than 98,000 followers is the most relevant. The account updates twice daily with Twain quotes that key on what’s happening in the news.
For instance, on Monday—the day the teacher strike in Chicago began—@TheMarkTwain tweeted: “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
On Sept. 11, the account offered: “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
And as violent demonstrations spread throughout the Middle East on Wednesday, @TheMarkTwain offered some dark humor: “If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.”
Like Twain, Shakespeare has more Twitter accounts than he could possibly manage, which is good for fans of The Bard.
The two most relevant are @IAM_Shakespeare
, in which the complete works of Shakespeare are tweeted line by line, and @Wwm_Shakespeare
, which infuses some character into the long-dead playwright and poet.
For instance, the latter account will sometimes adapt Shakespeare quotes to current events, such as one from this week: “O, whither hast thou led me, Egypt?”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Speaking of personality, the Twitter feed for the author of the “Little House” series is full of it. The cleverly titled @HalfPintIngalls
offers tweets of this tenor: “Happy 127th Anniversary, Almanzo! (Our secret for a long marriage? Separate outhouses.)”
And this: “IT'S SO HOT THAT MY BUSTLE IS COMBUSTING.”
The only downside, this Twitter feed—which is managed by Wendy McClure
, the author of “The Wilder Life” about Ingalls—hasn’t been updated since Aug. 25. Blame the fall harvest.
I fault Kurt Vonnegut for my failings in math. Instead of paying attention to my high school algebra teachers, I sat in the back with a Vonnegut novel tucked in my textbook. If Twitter had existed at the time, I could have just scanned this context-free stream of tweets from Vonnegut works instead of reading his canon.
Same lousy grade in math, less actual reading.
Here’s one such tweet: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
The late 18th, early 19th century British novelist ranks with Shakespeare and Twain as authors with more than one Twitter feed. There’s @DailyJaneAusten
, a feed that promises to deliver one Austen quote a day—a great idea if the site was update more than a few times a month.
The worthier Twitter account for the writer of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and other favorites is @AustenLives
, a collection of quotes, facts, and news update about the author and her works.
The most recent tweet: “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony.”
In his lifetime, the journalists, author, and essayist had a great deal to say about a great many things—many of which you can find @GeorgeOrwell
. The Twitter account appeals to Orwell buffs as it tweets passages from his diary, with updates related to world events at the time the entries were written.
For instance: “General dismay over the Government of India’s rash act in publishing the documents seized in the police raid on Congress headquarters.”
But there’s also some evergreen stuff: “One is constantly being thrown out in one’s calculations because one listens to the articulate minority and forgets the other 99 per cent.”
And this: “Not much to do over the bank holiday weekend. Busy at every odd moment making a hen-house.”
Sylvia Plath was as tortured as she was talented. The @ItsSylviaPlath
Twitter feed highlights this duality well, with tweets such as, “Writing is as necessary for the survival of my haughty sanity as bread is to my flesh,” and, “The world itself is the bad dream.” As a bonus, the account shares Plath related links, among them a recent tweet that links to an image of Plath’s annotated copy of “The Great Gatsby.”
In case you were wondering what Charles Dickens thinks of the weather, or the cookies he consumed recently, @DickensSays
is ready to oblige, with tweets that include: “Well, dear friends. It is autumn. It is like someone pulled a lever in London, which commissioned a chilly nip in the air.”
On the cookie front: “Accidentally consumed five biscuits when I wasn't paying attention. Those biscuits are wily fellows. They leap in like sugary ninjas.”
It’s a good Twitter feed and worth clicking “follow,” although Dickens deserves an account more worthy of his talents. (Maybe you
could start that account.)
Among the Twitter accounts on this list, @VirginiaSWoolf
is the most obscure with its 777 followers. Although it tweets only five or six times a month, the account is worth following for fans of Woolf and writers in general.
The bio, for instance, says: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” And the tweets seek to inspire writers directly, such as, “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters;& whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
And indirectly: “I will not be famous... I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind & my eyes, refusing to be stamped & stereotyped.”
Jack Kerouac is about to get the star treatment.
More than 40 years after the Beat Generation author’s death, his seminal work, “On the Road” is getting its long-awaited screen adaptation. And upon its release, retrospectives about the writer will probably appear in media outlets from The New Yorker
to E! Online.
Before the gold rush, you can get a personal dose of Kerouac on Twitter, where someone is tweeting bursts from “On The Road,” such as:
“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was.”
Heavy stuff for a social network.
Only downside to this account: It hasn’t been updated since June. Maybe that will change once the movie hits theaters.
Of course, there are countless authors—living and dead—on Twitter. Let us know in the comments about your favorites.