On May 21, 2009, following his publisher’s suggestion, William Poundstone started his Twitter account. He seemed unsure what to do with it, as evidenced by his second tweet (a month later), in which he described himself as “an impostor pretending to be a Twitter user.” Two tweets later, on August 9, 2009, he found the concept and constraint that was to shape how he used his Twitter account and made his tweeted: “Anagram Movie Review: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS = GO INSULT SERIOUS BRAD.” Three and a half years and 785 tweets later, he is still going strong with this idea, only occasionally varying it with a retweet or posting on a topic of his interest.
The idea has several layers of complexity. Movie titles are pithy to begin with, attempting to evoke an entire work, including plot, themes, and tone with just a few words. Poundstone then applies the ancient constraint of the anagram to shape his critique of the film. A further limit he places comes from beginning each tweet with “Anagram Movie Review: ” which takes up 21 characters of the 140 allowed by Twitter.
Anagram Movie Review: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER = LION, WITCHCRAFT, EVENHANDED HERO, FAT TEENAGERS: HOORAY!
Anagram Movie Review: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER = THEOLOGIAN’S FARFETCHED NOTION: HEAVENWARD TREACHERY
Given the brevity of film titles, he’s in little danger, though applying this constraint to early novel titles (thanks to Jason Rhody for the link) might be unattainable.
Why didn’t he identify this concept with a hashtag? It seems like the kind of constraint that could become a trend. Perhaps he wants to keep it consistent with his voice, as he becomes the most succinct film critic in the web. Perhaps Rotten Tomatoes, should include him among their critics, thought they might need to use their poetic analysis skills to determine whether to label a review as “fresh” or “rotten.”