That Time Teju Cole Changed the Game with “A Piece of the Wall.”

In March 2014, acclaimed writer Teju Cole, went to Tucson, Arizona with other artists and writers to observe the US-Mexican border. From this experience, he ended up writing a 4000-word story, “A Piece of the Wall,” entirely in tweets (250 in total). In the piece, each character has its own separate Twitter account, and the dialogue is entirely in mentions, retweeted onto the main timeline. Cole has been very vocal about his belief in the power of Twitter as possible site of long form journalism. He is also known to have “won” Twitter, in the sense that he is the writer who is known to have used it most innovatively. In January 2014, he had had his followers participate in a collective story, wonderful in its own right, but the length and mastery of “A Piece of the Wall,” was what caught everyone’s attention.

In terms of literary value: it blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction, between social media and literary media, between high culture and low culture. In terms of emotional value: it is a beautiful story about the difficulty of and death involved in immigration. Read it here.

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