Some dead writers simply shouldn’t tweet. J. D. Salinger was too reclusive; Hemingway would have seen it as needy; Faulkner would have balked at the character limit. Yet all three have accounts, certainly unauthorized and perhaps against their dead wills. But think too of those writers who would have delighted us had they churned out a steady stream of 140-character missives. The pithy zings of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde? Plath, baring her soul? They all have Twitter accounts too.
Despite this lively back and forth, living authors win out here as well. I searched for dead authors on Twitter who could come close to the likes of Neil Gaiman (1.8 million followers) and Colson Whitehead (131,000) — but found none. Even Shakespeare (“Brevity is the soul of wit”) inspires a relatively lonesome 31,000.
But why all the God-forsaken ranking, anyway? When did literature become a high school ballot for king and queen of the literary prom? And was my obsession wholly about the preservation of the classics, or was it tinged by something a little less high-minded? Look, I am well aware of my lowly social rank online, and you shouldn’t trust a novelist during what could be a literary midlife (or midlist) crisis.