Book Review: Twittering from the Circus of the Dead
Joe Hill writes Twittering from the Circus of the Dead in a twitter style format, and has fittingly only made Twittering… available through electronic print. The digital cover of a hand-drawn dead twitter and shaded grey background produces an aesthetic that could be found on a typical book shelf. The cover actually invites the reader into the story in a fashion that the typical horror book cover could not. The story also maintains the Twitter format throughout, and will even include tags and posting times. Hill does not seem shy to counting stories in 140 character spurts, since he similarly writes the graphic-novel captions for Locke & Key. Honestly, this story had to be as fun to write, as it is to read.
When it comes to the actual story, Joe Hill seems to set-up the usual horror ploy. Blake is the typical tech-age teenager who fights constantly with her mom over Blake’s (dis)connectedness. There is also the younger brother Eric, who seems to play with his sexuality by wearing and parading in Blake’s clothes. And as usual in horror, the father gets the family lost in the back-roads of nowhere. And that is where everything goes wrong…
So far Twittering… seems to have all the elements of a typical horror story. But Joe Hill sets-up the reader. From Blake’s twitter handle, tyme2waste, to the stories last bang, which will not be spoiled. But it will definitely leave you hanging. As for the beginning, the story starts with Blake responding to the twitterverse “want to know what I am doing? Screaming inside… my, didn’t that sound melodramatic… let’s try again…hello my name is Blake and Blake is me. What am I doing? Counting seconds.” A reply that resonates with Stephen Crane’s existential poem “A man said to the universe”. Blake taps into the human condition of our (im)mortality, including the written word. With only 140 characters at a time Blake tweets her mom’s thoughts, “She’s always saying the Net is more real for [Blake]… and [her]… friends than the world. [That]… nothing really happens unless someone blogs about it… Or writes about it on their Facebook page… She says the internet is Life Validation”. This encapsulates the artist existential whim. This poses many meta-literature and “meta-net” questions. Like, how literary can a novel be if it is not a book? This can literally mean a book, a material object, or an artifact, as well as the so-called value of literature online. And as this question unfolds so does an existential one: how real is life as it appears online? In life? How do we give life meaning on the trenches of one’s mortality? Or make sure it does not get buried alive.
These are the questions Twittering from the Circus of the Dead makes from itself, questions whose only response is the inevitable end. And in horror stories there is always an inevitable end. Matched with the materiality of our lives and books, art, music, or any human expression, Twittering… puts a twisted perspective on existence.