Required Reading: The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel

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(Warning: Links may will contain Explicit Language)

I almost feel inappropriate to review this book with more than 140 characters. As I’m already over the halfway mark, and with a lot more to say (and alas, already over the limit), I must concede to the more traditional book review format. Further, it seems unfair to deem this just a book review. What Dan Sinker has done is certainly storytelling, but is also transcendent of conventional medium. The story begins on Twitter, on September 27, 2010, rumors already making the rounds that now former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would step down from that position and run for mayor of Chicago, after Richard M. Daley shockingly announced he would not run for another term (22 years was finally enough apparently). The anonymous account accumulated followers by reaching out to more mainstream media outlets and cheering on the Bears game that night. Over the next couple days, more and more people responded to his tweets, the account having acquired over a thousand followers (no easy task, believe me), and soon, what set out to be a way of just ‘entertaining a few people’ suddenly had a national audience.

The story goes on to @MayorEmanuel passionately tweeting his love for coffee, disdain for Kenosha, Wisconsin (shared with the author of this article), childish acts of vandalism against his opponents, spending an entire day glued to Angry Birds, absurd antics with his brother Ari, among a myriad of other things. The advantage of creating a story through Twitter (even accidentally) is that Sinker was able to respond in real time to the events of the real Rahm’s life. If it was known that Emanuel was in a meeting, @MayorEmanuel could text how bored he was at said meeting. If two feet of snow was currently covering the entire city, @MayorEmanuel could tweet about tunneling out of a crawlspace and building an igloo.

Of course, the book is not just about placing a politician in silly situations and parodying his big-mouth just for a few laughs. There is a whole heap of local cultural references and symbolism throughout, which is what makes turning the Twitter account into a full book so worthwhile. Sinker’s annotations provide context for what was happening politically during his tweeting (or if the Bears ended up winning), as well as describing say, the two model hot dogs atop Superdawg, what Mieg’s Field used to be, Jeff Tweedy refusing to cover Black Eyed Peas songs, or the effects of Four Loko for future generations to envy. Not only can the book be a pseudo-documentation of current events and trends at the time, but is certainly at the least a fantastic introduction to Chicago culture in general (note: whenever you see ‘celery salt’ mentioned, pay attention).

For some, the book may have its issues. For instance, redundancy. Sinker likes to stick to a few topics (coffee in the morning, leaving work and starting the weekend, etc.) that he comes back to often, which may have raised a slight laugh from those reading the live tweets on a Metra train to or from work, but serve little relevancy in regards to the narrative it became. For some, the whole idea of creating a story through the ephemeral medium of tweeting may seem gimmicky, even a joke. Likewise, it may come off as a bit of brilliance, to be able to take advantage of the medium and redefine how we tell stories. Whichever opinion you’re of, the book does create a conversation surrounding the nature of storytelling in reference to changing technology, and, overall, well, it’s just extraordinarily funny.

Overall, the book is more than just a series of tweets. The intro by Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, discusses how parody was actually one of the original instigators in creating the website, and Sinker’s epilogue recounts his life after being found out, and his sudden rise from Columbia College journalism professor to national celebrity. And to its credit, while simultaneously defying conventional storytelling standards, the book does create an introduction, rising action, climax and conclusion (oh yeah, and there’s a duck with a mustache named Quaxelrod). If nothing else, when finished reading this book, you’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for coffee, Twitter, and five o’clocks on motherfucking Fridays.

Andrew Hertzberg

About Andrew Hertzberg

If identity is an illusion, I’m a magician in training. And although Emerson was right in pointing out that “with consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do” the one constant I don’t mind in my life is Chicago. Yes, even the boredom of her suburbs couldn’t suppress the glow of the city, my attraction as a moth to flame. The future is unwritten, the characters are ever-expanding, and the plot is a perpetual foray through rising actions, conflicts and falling actions; the setting, however, remains the same.

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