I heard a review of a new novel today that made me laugh out loud – and want to read the book.  Cory Arcangel was an aspiring author but had trouble driving any attempt at a novel to completion.  The problem was the problem of so many writers: procrastination.  So, he decided to embrace that theme.  He wrote a small program to scan Twitter for the phrase “working on my novel” and let it run for a year and a half.  He then worked the resulting tweets, all of which included the phrase “working on my novel” and all of which showed that the author was actually procrastinating and not writing, into a book, entitled Working on My Novel.

Having completed one novel and now working on a non-fiction book, I know well the siren song of procrastination.  I’m looking forward to reading the book and seeing what other people do when they are avoiding writing.  And I am also impressed with the ability of Mr. Arcangel to create a novel without having to sit down and write.  Bravo!

I especially liked Mr. Arcangel’s answer to the question of why publish a book on paper rather than release the same information as a series of tweets.  His answer – tweets are temporal and gone, while a novel on paper can last for decades.

This book also appeared in my consciousness at just the right time – when I have been thinking so much about the new forms of communication that we have introduced into the world and how they change our ability to connect with one another.  Here is a book that juxtaposes a novel – one end of the spectrum of written communication – with tweets – the other end of the spectrum of written communication.

A review of the book in Vogue magazine is here:  Cory Arcangel:  Working on My Novel


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4 responses to “Procrastination”

  1. John Burnette says :

    I’m working on a program to collect on line comments about what people think about Cory’s new book…

    Curious, how is Cory not open to a massive copyright infringement class action lawsuit?

    • Graham Burnette says :

      Who would the members of the class be? The Twitter terms of use say that tweets belong to Twitter. And Twitter will not sue, they are getting free publicity.

      • John Burnette says :

        Actually that is not accurate, but neither was I as I assumed tweets are protected. (I’ve since looked it up.) Twitter expressly states that tweets are not their intellectual property, rather that their user agreement requires that they be given a non-exclusive right to use, compile, and analyze your tweets, AND, to extend that right to “their partners”. Further, they encourage users to freely place their tweets into the public domain by filling out a form (first developed by the Free Software Foundation) the so-called “copyleft”.

        Curious thing about that, however, is that any work derivative of a “copyleft” must itself be in the public domain. Makes me wonder if Cory’s book is copyrighted.

  2. John Burnette says :

    A more scholarly and enlightened article can be found at this link. It specifically mentions automated collection of tweets and subsequent publications.

    One paragraph struck me as particularly relevant

    “Twitter has a draft set of rules for developers of software that interact with Twitter’s API. These draft rules suggest that such companies must provide attribution of authorship for any tweets they use, “maintain the integrity of Tweets” by not editing or altering them, obtain the tweeter’s “consent before sending Tweets or other messages on their behalf,” and finally, “get permission from the [tweeter] if you want to make their Tweet into a commercial good or product.” While this set of rules has not been formalized, it functions as a set of guidelines for those interacting with the API to preclude a copyright claim as well as a host of other legal claims.”

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