Novelist Teju Cole is trying out a new Twitter experiment this morning, letting loose a string of more than a dozen tweets that tell the story of a public heart attack. The tweets come from different accounts, only brought together on Cole's feed. The result is a story connecting more than a dozen unrelated people, all recounting what amounts to the same story.
One of the accounts, @MisterSimian, has confirmed to The Verge that the tweets were solicited by Cole in advance, suggesting that the work was written as conventional prose. Other accounts include comedian Rob Delaney, several writers, and Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's All In. It does not appear that any of the accounts were aware of the full story before the event. Cole has tried out experimental works on Twitter before, most notably in the Small Fates project and his drone series, but this is the first time he's put the social nature of the platform to use in his work.
The story is embedded in its 33-tweet entirety below:
. . . to the subway, I saw a man on the ground. He sat on the sidewalk, under trees, with his feet out to the quiet street.— rünty reader (@runtyreader) January 8, 2014
Four others were there: a young man busy with a phone, a young woman, a baby in a pram, a girl who was with the woman.— George Szirtes (@george_szirtes) January 8, 2014
There was a stillness in the scene, as in an altarpiece. There was a helpless air in those who stood around him.— ; (@murab) January 8, 2014
The seated man was closer to sixty than to fifty, dressed in an ordinary way, a button-down long-sleeved shirt, trousers.— Chioma Ogwuegbu (@AfricanCeleb) January 8, 2014
His right hand was inside his shirt. He clutched at his heart and winced.— ST (@seyitaylor) January 8, 2014
The young man with the phone said, "He's having chest pains. Earlier he said he was having chest pains."— Ayesha A. Siddiqi (@pushinghoops) January 8, 2014
"Is it a heart attack?" "I don't know." "Did you call 911?"— culdivsac (@culdivsac) January 8, 2014
He hesitated. Then he said no, and that maybe I should. The man on the ground grimaced and did not look up.— Mister Simian (@MisterSimian) January 8, 2014
He gave no indication of being aware of our presence. He was tranquil, wordless. The tears were falling from his eyes.— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) January 8, 2014
Christopher Logue, "All Day Permanent Red": "Or are they only asleep? They are too tired to sleep. The tears are falling from their eyes."— Disruptia (@Ebsje) January 8, 2014
"The noise they make while fighting is so loud That what you see is like a silent film."— Elon Green (@elongreen) January 8, 2014
"And as the dust converges over them The ridge is as it is when darkness falls."— Saudamini (@saudaminid) January 8, 2014
I called 911. The dispatcher put me through to the EMTs. I told them where we were and what I had seen.— Kima Jones (@kima_jones) January 8, 2014
When I finished and had hung up the phone, I tried to talk to my man on the ground but his sound lacked all sound.— Ainehi Edoro (@brittlepaper) January 8, 2014
Why tears? Because light is beautiful. Because we do not wish to leave something and stray away into nothing.— rob delaney (@robdelaney) January 8, 2014
Because we have some dim awareness that being alive is better than being dead, which might be nothing, which might be nothingness.— Ayanna Gillian Lloyd (@AyaRoots) January 8, 2014
The man leaned back, further back, lay his head and shoulders on the concrete, softly, and closed his eyes.— neo maditla (@neo_maditla) January 8, 2014
He was very still. Dead, possibly.— Elif Batuman (@BananaKarenina) January 8, 2014
Coming close to take his pulse, I smelled alcohol. His tear-stained cheek shone. I placed a thumb on his wrist. His hand was cold.— Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert) January 8, 2014
After a few moments, I remembered that the thumb has a pulse of its own, so I placed, instead, two fingers on his wrist.— Oluchi 007 Ogwuegbu (@LuchiesO) January 8, 2014
Distracted by the young man with the phone, the young woman with the pram, the girl, and by my own presence, I was unable to concentrate.— rjctr (@rejecter) January 8, 2014
I tried again and finally faintly felt through my fingers the blood softly throb.— J. Robert Lennon (@jrobertlennon) January 8, 2014
And only then did I also notice his chest subtly rise and fall.— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) January 8, 2014
The ambulance arrived sirenlessly about five minutes later. Two EMTs came out of the vehicle, a man and a woman, both young and slender.— ashish (@ashishgajera) January 8, 2014
The male EMT had a beautiful name which right away I began to forget: Ahmed, or Hamid, or Aziz, or Hafiz.— ndinda (@ndinda_) January 8, 2014
"How did he get into that position?" "He lay down there." "Lay how? Did he bang his head?" "He lay down there like someone going to sleep."— Mark O'Connell (@mrkocnnll) January 8, 2014
"He didn't hit his head on the ground?" "No."— Madam Sin (@Robirobi1) January 8, 2014
They worked with Homeric clarity. In each unwasted gesture was the message: it's always someone's turn, always someone's bad day.— Rachel Rosenfelt (@rachelrosenfelt) January 8, 2014
The female EMT knelt down and checked his pulse with two fingers at the throat. Ahmed, Hafiz, shook him by the shoulders and spoke to him.— Emily Raboteau (@emilyraboteau) January 8, 2014
No response. With my help and the help of the young man, he is lifted onto the stretcher.— Josh Begley (@joshbegley) January 8, 2014
He dips into present tense: his eyes slit open for a moment, and close again. A white froth appears around his mouth. His eyelids glisten.— Lee Brackstone (@leebrackstone) January 8, 2014
"I know him," the young man said. "I've seen him around. Drinks a lot."— Patrick Nathan (@patricknathan) January 8, 2014
FIN— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 8, 2014
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