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Famous Writers Start Twitter Fight

August 23, 2015
This is what happens when a guy mocks feminism and Edith Wharton. (image via wikimedia)

This is what happens when a guy mocks feminism and Edith Wharton. (image via wikimedia)

First of all, nobody ever wins a Twitter fight.  There are only varying degrees of losing.  Most reasonable people understand this, but still, famous author Jennifer Weiner (The Next Best Thing) seems determined to get into a Twitter fight with award-winning author Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections).

Famous authors getting into arguments on Twitter are like professional athletes who get hurt playing pick-up games with amateurs.  It makes the rest of us scream: “What were you thinking!!”  A famous author has to think of his/her reputation before getting into a Twitter argument, even if the argument is with another author.

I usually stay out of arguments that don’t directly affect me, so if you want more details about the substance of the Twitter fight, you can read them here or here.  Basically, Johnathan Franzen started the whole thing (but he didn’t really “start” it) with an interview about his upcoming book Purity.   Of course, things got a bit sidetracked, and Franzen said a few things (about Edith Wharton and feminism) that outraged a bunch of people, including author Weiner, who took their disagreements to Twitter.  From Franzen’s point-of-view, that probably meant he had a good interview.

Jennifer Weiner looks like the clear loser in this Twitter feud, and it has nothing to do with the substance.  First, she numbered her tweets.  As soon as you have to number your tweets, you should know that you’ve lost a Twitter fight.  If you need to number your tweets, then you’re taking your argument too seriously for Twitter.  Twitter can make famous writers sound as silly and illogical as the rest of us, and numbering tweets doesn’t help.

Instead of writing a bunch of numbered tweets, Weiner should have just tweeted “Franzen, you suck.”  It would have saved time, and people like me could have followed her logic more easily.

Even though I think he won the Twitter fight by default (refusing to participate), I have mixed feelings about Jonathan Franzen.  I don’t care for his books, but I admire his ability to stir things up and walk away.  A decade ago, he pissed off Oprah Winfrey and then never went on her show, not even to fake an apology.  For his new book Purity, he said a bunch of stuff that has made people mad, but he hasn’t responded much to the criticism.  I admire an abrasive guy who doesn’t flip out when he’s criticized for what he says.

One of Franzen’s controversial statements was about adopting children.  The reasons he gave for adopting and then NOT adopting seem shallow, but once you decide not to adopt, every reason seems shallow.  I’m not judging him.  My wife and I decided not to adopt, and if anybody asked why, our reasons would seem shallow too.

When Franzen mentioned that he was thinking about adopting a kid from Iraq because he didn’t understand young people, Franzen’s editor suggested that he talk to some college students, and after Franzen did that, he no longer wanted to adopt a kid.  I feel a little bad for that kid who still lives in war-torn Iraq.  I hope he (or she) is having a good life even though he didn’t get adopted by Johnathan Franzen.  If I were one of those college students, I’d feel a little guilty, knowing that some kid was suffering in Iraq just because I’d talked to Jonathan Franzen.  I don’t know how I’d live with myself after that.

Unlike Jonathan Franzen, whenever I want to understand young people (I don’t mean that in a weird way), I read their blogs.  Young people can write pretty good blogs (again, I don’t mean that in a weird way).  Most of their tweets are lame, but most of my tweets are lame too.  But the next time I want to understand young people (I’m not sure when it will happen next), I won’t read a Jonathan Franzen book.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know much about young people.

Professional writers should know better than to get into Twitter fights.  Twitter fights are for people who don’t usually write (or fight either).  Writers should use blogs or magazines to feud with each other.  I would never get into a Twitter fight with another writer, but if I HAD to start a Twitter fight with another writer, I’d pick James Patterson.  James Patterson hasn’t taken enough criticism for the massive number of books he’s claimed to have written.  By my own rules, I’d automatically lose a Twitter fight with James Patterson because he would either ignore me or have one of his co-authors argue for him.  Even though I know I’d lose, I might still do it.

A Twitter fight is like the opposite of a real fight.  If you ignore all the Twitter comments against you without getting fired from your job, then you automatically win.  In a real fight, if you ignore the guy throwing punches, you’ll get knocked out and you automatically lose.  That’s why people who wouldn’t start real fights will sometimes engage in Twitter fights.

*****

What do you think?  Should famous writers get into Twitter fights?  What famous author would you like to get into a Twitter fight with?  Do you understand what Jennifer Weiner and other critics were arguing (with Franzen) about?  Should Franzen respond to Twitter criticism?

*****

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30 Comments
  1. As far as I’m concerned, as soon as someone has a “Twitter Account” they lose. (Ok ok, I know that includes pretty much every person on the face of the planet but me) The verbal usage of the word is what really turns me off. “So and so tweeted today: blah blah blah” Ew! (They lose.)

  2. “I admire his ability to stir things up and walk away.”

    Sure, but … one of my novel characters has discovered that if you do this, i.e. turning your opponent mad and then your back at her to walk away, you risk getting your ass kicked. Literally so.

  3. Lol re James Patterson having his co-authors fight the Twitter fight fire him. Brilliant!!

  4. Alex Hurst permalink

    No, Twitter fights are kind of stupid, though I laughed when you mentioned numbering tweets. That’s a pretty good point. I got into a Twitter fight, apparently, with another author, who blocked even though I’d never once tagged or interacted with her… except that I wrote a blog post about a Guardian article she penned about book reviewers that I guess made her think I was too much in her business. 😛

    • I think the person who gets blocked is usually declared the winner of a Twitter fight.

      The exception is when the person who got blocked was sending naked pictures or making threats/vulgar suggestions.

  5. Love the James Patterson comment

  6. John Scalzi frequents Twitter and his detractors love to try stirring things up. Generally he either ignores them or posts a blog about it along the lines of “this is what people are saying” and then follows it up with a series of cute animal pictures.

  7. Feuds are mutually beneficial. By challenging Oprah, Franzen not only gained the attention of the Oprah, book club, he gained legendary status. Even with a “book of the year” stamp, and a Oprah stamp, The Corrections could’ve found itself lost in the weeds of the bookstore. I bought it, and I don’t pay attention to stamps. Perhaps, Weiner and Franzen dreamed this whole feud up to sell more Weiner books? I know, Franzen accused Weiner of freeloading, but isn’t the best way to thwart a suspicion to put it out there yourself? This entire reply may be steeped in conspiracy minded cynicism, but one has to guess that Weiner has a lot of trouble selling books to her choir, for what self-respecting feminist is going to say to another feminist, “You simply have to read the latest Weiner book.”?

    • That’s interesting. I’m not sure how much it benefits Jennifer Weiner to talk about stuff that Franzen has said just before his new book is out. Weiner would be better off if she could get Franzen to talk about HER, but I don’t think he’s falling for that.

      Still, the publicity from this made me more aware of Jennifer Weiner, but I’m not sure if my awareness of her helps her at all in the long run.

      Or maybe she just enjoys venting on Twitter. Some people think that’s fun.

      • When it comes to publicity there’s no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right. As for having fun on Twitter, I’m guessing that she enjoys ragging on Franzen. I have no use for Franzen, and I’ve never heard of the Weiner, but I have to think he’s sold more books than her, and she’s extremely bitter about it.

  8. Writers or not, I think people don’t have to be engaged in this kind of discussion especially in social media. Made your point, short and clear and walk away. I always try to recognize a hopeless situation when I see one and say to myself that I don’t have to fight every battle. Some of them are not worth my time.

  9. magistra218 permalink

    If I had the opportunity to engage in a Twitter feud with another writer, I think I would choose Pat Conroy. I would certainly lose, but it would be so entertaining to witness how eloquently he would destroy me.

  10. If I had to choose a twitter opponent, it would be someone like John Le Carré because he probably isn’t tech-savvy and most of his fan base won’t be either.
    I use twitter and I think it’s great at keeping me up to speed with all sorts of current events but the majority of people I follow are just funny

  11. Todd Duffey Writes on Things permalink

    That is awesome and hilarious! I had no idea there was an online fight club for authors! Can they be sponsored? Or better yet, can we bet on these things? Thanks for opening my eyes to this new-found dark internet alley!

  12. I want to witness that kind of matter 🙂

  13. “But the next time I want to understand young people (I’m not sure when it will happen next), I won’t read a Jonathan Franzen book. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know much about young people.” Right on, pretty much IMO2.

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  15. Shreya Suravarjhula permalink

    Twitter might appear bunk initially but trust me it is a tremendous medium or platform for promoting stuff.It creates lot of noise.

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