When you ask a publisher what sells books, he or she will hem and haw and say that they do a lot of things to try to sell books, but honestly they don’t know if any of that works. What really works, the publisher will say, is “word of mouth.” But that declaration inevitably brings a shrug. Who knows, really, how to help generate that?
Last May I was waiting for the September publication date of my new novel, Hell. I’d been hearing about Twitter, but it was only when I had a new book imminent that something about this rapidly growing social network came clear to me. I could communicate in 140-character “tweets” to a set of followers, who in turn could “retweet” what I say to their followers who could retweet to their followers and so forth. This was, in other words, institutionalized word of mouth.
So I opened a Twitter account in the name of “TweetsFromHell.” I took the 140-character structure to be an implicit new art form—part haiku, part short short story. I began to tweet news bulletins from the Inferno five times a week. And this was all new material I was putting out. In the spirit of the book, but not from the book. In effect, mini bonus tracks.
Five months after pub date, I’m still occasionally tweeting from Hell. I love the form. I love going to Hell and checking out what’s going on.
And now, in a few installments, I’m going to post the TweetsFromHell archive.
Tweets from Hell, part 1
Hell is very very crowded, but this shouldn’t be a surprise: everyone who ever lived had millions who devoutly expected them to end up here
A. Lincoln & J.W. Booth dissolve wailing as one in sulfur rain & share nights at the theatre: forgotten lines & shooting pains & bad reviews
Satan himself moonwalks to the dock on the Styx, chortling to deliver the news: children are nowhere to be found in Hell’s Great Metropolis
The future is already present and the past is everywhere here in Hell: stop and take a whiff, folks: sulfur and sweat and self-righteousness
D. Cheney & Beelzebub secretly talk strategy for No. 2 guy to control No. 1, while Satan & G.W. Bush boohoo over disapproving fathers
4some: Marilyn Monroe & Bobby & Jack & Uncle Miltie, she forced to watch & wonder why she ever felt those parts could touch her aching heart
Satan feels his work in world is like soap opera & he has onus of daily script, but he will up Twitter output, given its potential for evil
The famed are still famous, eaten alive by those who aren’t & then declared insubstantial, Hell’s fast food, ravaging the diners from within
Rose the Bearded Lady finds face & back & chest hairless at last, thinks this Heaven, now vanishes into Hell’s throngs: O please look at me
He once sold the Britannica door to door & betrayed a hundred fragile hearts & now he eternally reads lies about his sins on Wikipedia
Dante blames himself: if he’d only figured out a way to make Paradiso as interesting as Inferno, the dogma as resonant as the body
Harold & Diane sit in their bungalow, weary & silent: the wind hums in the eaves, a clock ticks, TV plays in another room, & they are sad
Mardi Gras in Hell: the ones on the iron balconies try to bare their souls to the clamoring crowd but simply show their tits instead
Everyone here has to keep up with the new technology; Herman Melville has writer’s block after 1st sentence of his new novel: Call me email
More technological torture: while the heat of Rome in flames rages in his head, Nero can only play the iPhone ocarina app
In a restroom at the bus depot, the inventor of the electric hand drier wipes his own eternally wet hands on his pants
B. Clinton, hand on belt buckle, sits forever waiting for knock on his hotel door & it’s always Hillary, who expects Chief Justice & a Bible
Einstein finds all his family here, future as well as past, sees time like soiled panties in a knot & formulates General Theory of Relatives