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@Eshackleton: You can't just turn around and go right back, you know.
May 25, 2011 7:55 AM   Subscribe

"Shackleton": The story Ernest Shackleton's Endurance voyage, told as a Twitter novel. Says author Peggy Nelson, "The fearless leader of the greatest anticlimax known to narrative, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) is today’s go-to superhero." You can follow the narrative on Twitter here.

The site's home page includes a wonderful audio file of Shackleton himself speaking.

And here's why Nelson chose Twitter to tell the story:

Telling the story in tweets takes at most few minutes a day, for a number of months. Any fallen disbelief can be restrung in the hours in-between. And although each tweet is short, they accumulate, and in accumulation can combine to form complex characters — or almost unbelievable adventures.

While the Twitter adventure will blog Shackleton’s entire journey, it will not be only in his words. This is an historical fiction: I will quote him, but more often I will be imagining him, inventing internal dialogue to explore the explorer. In addition, the narrative will also be sampling observations from other explorers of the extremes, such as Werner Herzog and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and mixing in other contemporary materials and commentary.

By mapping the negative spaces of extremity, these and other depth explorers have all attempted to limn what it means to be human, by seeing how far we can — or should — go. Shackleton seeks to explore the lengths to which we will go to find meaning, wonder, or the fabled far edges of the earth.


In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that my interest in Shackleton was triggered by a question I posted in Ask Metafilter, trying to find a fitting moniker for my abandoned, frostbitten, ravaged survivorcat. Thanks to the generous profferings of many, many MeFites, he's now named Shackleton, and he defines "endurance."
posted by flyingsquirrel (32 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't mind the idea of a twitter novel, but this is boring.
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I really don't like the idea of redoing historical events as modern day twitter narratives, or as blogs. It was kind of a cute idea the first time, but the anachronisms make it really jarring to read. I'd much prefer either a modern day or a sci-fi use of it.
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shackleton, previously on ask.metafilter
posted by Greg Nog at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Greg -- Thanks! That's the link I'd added in tiny font in my original post. Not really relevant to the Twitter novel links, I know, but I couldn't help myself. Heh.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2011


If there were only one heroic figure who did NOT deserve this sort of dumbing down, it would be Shackleton. Twitter may be perfect for the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga - "celebrities" with no substance to offer - but Ernest Shackleton can hardly be included in that vapid number.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, the recording!

I'm sitting here listening to it, and I can't get over the fact that it's Ernest Shackleton's voice, the very sound of that unimaginably incredible guy. It's not just that it's a one-hundred-year-old recording, which is wonderful and fantastic in itself, but there is Shackleton himself telling me the story of just one of the zillion impossible things that he'd encountered on his long journeys. I could listen to hours of it and the chills would never go away. Now that is being touched by someone's story.

A scrolling Twitter feed of cut-ups, less so.
posted by SteelyDuran at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I was surprised too. I think it's an interesting experiment to use a new form of media/communication to tell a story, but I'm not sure it works -- especially since she is using other sources other than his own words. That makes me dubious. Still, I think it's cool that she's trying it. And I'd rather read about Shackleton than vapid celebs any day.

Then again, I sort of hate Twitter. So yeah. Dubious.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:42 AM on May 25, 2011


Sorry, was responding to this comment -- If there were only one heroic figure who did NOT deserve this sort of dumbing down, it would be Shackleton. Twitter may be perfect for the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Lady Gaga - "celebrities" with no substance to offer - but Ernest Shackleton can hardly be included in that vapid number.

Agree about the recording. Blows my mind.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:44 AM on May 25, 2011


That's the link I'd added in tiny font in my original post. Not really relevant to the Twitter novel links, I know, but I couldn't help myself. Heh.

Oh, jeez. Yep. Okay, that was redundant. Anyway, he's a great-looking cat!

posted by Greg Nog at 8:44 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really would love to read a fully formed social media 'novel', for lack of a better word -- I think that the closest I've seen to it was "Don't Take It Personally, Babe...".

To many of these have only one character, but in any modern day story like this, all of the characters would have facebook and twitter accounts, or blogs, the possibilities for blowing up traditional narrative are vast. Posting a diary in twitter form just seems kind of, I dunno, quaint.
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2011


On that note, I should add that I actually created a Facebook account for my cat Shackleton, so he could spread awareness that diabetic and special-needs cats need homes too. But mostly he's just snarky and overly impressed with himself.

I can't believe I just admitted that I did that.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2011


flyingsquirrel: I can't believe I just admitted that I did that.

I call that your moment of Internet Rebirth, wherein the limits to what you would say to friends or random acquaintances are lifted, and your spirit is free to share its inner-most desires and daily events of utter banality. You are now a netizen, and you are re-born into your internet handle. [Name Redacted] is gone, you are now flyingsquirrel.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always imagined Shackelton would have had at least a tiny Irish brogue, but he sounds like he never set foot on the Emerald Island, let alone been born and raised there.
posted by three blind mice at 9:16 AM on May 25, 2011


Whoa.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 9:16 AM on May 25, 2011


so glad it worked out flyingsquirrel, great post! Hope it's not too much for me to say this is one of my proudest AskMe moments :)
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


EShackelton Ernest Shackleton
Cold. Bored. McNish driving everyone nuts with his incessant snoring.
1 hour ago
posted by gottabefunky at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


God, this sounds ever so slightly more tedious than every other use of Twitter. If I wanted my information spoon-fed to me in baby-sized chunks of 140 characters, I'd... well, I just wouldn't, that's all.

I find Twitter to be almost completely useless and aggravating. I'm going to bet Ernest Shackleton would too.
posted by Aquaman at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2011


OTOH: that recording...

Wow.

At the very least, I'm grateful to you, flyingquirrel, for posting this - just so I'd be exposed to hearing the recording.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"For swift and efficient travel, give me Amundsen; for scientific investigation, give me Scott; but when you are at your wits' end and all else fails, go down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."
—Raymond Priestley

Yay. Shackleton, the BOSS! Thanks for this post FS.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:24 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


> I always imagined Shackelton would have had at least a tiny Irish brogue, but he sounds like he never set foot on the Emerald Island, let alone been born and raised there.

I'd imagine the voice difference is in part due to the recording of the time (also everyone has that high nasal-ness to them, if you just went by what was recorded). Add to that he was also a professional public speaker, and his father moved to London when he was young.

I put together a Shackleton FPP a few years back, if folks want more Shackleton nerdery.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I put together a Shackleton FPP a few years back...

Most excellent! And as long as we're talking about Ernest Shackleton, let us not forget the intrepid Mrs. Chippy.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:34 AM on May 25, 2011


Go Ask Alice, the Twitter novel:

School was a nightmare.

It's my birthday.

I've lost three pounds.

I simply can't wait to try pot, only once, I promise!

Tranquilizers are the greatest.

I finally smoked pot and it was even greater than I expected!

I want to puke all over the shitty world.

Another day, another blowjob.

Thank God I didn't hurt the baby.

It's all been good in its own special way, I guess. See ya.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't like to end on a down note; here's a song.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2011


I'd imagine the voice difference is in part due to the recording of the time (also everyone has that high nasal-ness to them, if you just went by what was recorded). Add to that he was also a professional public speaker, and his father moved to London when he was young.

Thanks mrzarquon. There's not a touch of lilt in his voice. It's pure Victorian upperclass twit - evident in his manner of speaking. Which is honestly a surprise for me. He is portrayed in folklore as having strong Irish roots, but I don't hear it in his voice.
posted by three blind mice at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2011


His first biographer, Hugh Robert Mill, observed "He was now a sturdy, broad-shouldered boy of eleven, full of life and noise, with an accent that, despite the parental care which had refined it by comparison with the brogue of Dublin, struck the ears of Londoners as terribly Irish."

Both his parents and his prep school education undoubtedly did their best to kill the vestiges of Irish accent since "sounding Irish" was a pretty effective bar to upward mobility in England. I think Oscar Wilde, also the son of an Irish Protestant doctor, said that the first thing he did at Oxford was drop his accent.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:52 AM on May 25, 2011


At home on a shelf I have a copy of South!

That book is awesome. Understated, gripping, amazing.

This Twitter feed? This is stupid. It's like the polar opposite of Shackleton's book (forgive the pun). It makes me dislike Twitter even more than I did before. Besides, a Twitter novel? Right, I want to read it in text message form, interrupted every three lines by out-of-context replies and out-of-character asides.

You can't boil a man like Shackleton and an experience like the one he and his crew undertook into 140 character bites. If you want to understand what they went through read the actual dead-tree book, enjoy the photos, and ask yourself what kind of guts and blind luck it took to get every man home safe (not to mention the crazy dedication it took for the photographer to haul those glass plate negatives along for the entire damn near-death experience).
posted by caution live frogs at 12:34 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came to poop on the twitter feed but I see the Amundsens to my Scott have once again been ruthlessly, efficiently at work.

Recording of Scott's voice though is fucking awesome. Thanks
posted by From Bklyn at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2011


All too close to Roz Chast's Diary of a Cat . 1st cartoon at link.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2011


Since the twitter feed of Wittgenstein's diary(@WittTweets) ends soon, this is a pierfect next thing to add to my twitter diet. Thanks!
posted by honest knave at 2:29 PM on May 25, 2011


The Japanese got there first.

I suppose it could work, though it comes across as more gimmick than breakthrough. ANd there's the problem that she's not a very good writer.

I put together a Shackleton FPP a few years back, if folks want more Shackleton nerdery.

Indeed you did! And I, a Frank Hurley, the photographer on that expedition.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on May 25, 2011


I just realized, some Shackleton music nerd could rework Like a Boss into Like The Boss.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:02 PM on May 25, 2011


This is Shackleton's song. (At least the feline Shack.)
posted by flyingsquirrel at 7:20 AM on May 26, 2011


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