Patricia Lockwood looked up from the Internet long enough to try to express what she saw there, in a lecture at the British Museum that was published in the London Review of Books. Maybe you saw a piece of it go by on your Twitter feed, some hilarious and precisely formed unit of observation, or a good gag (the word potatoes may have been there). The pieces of it were good Twitter content—Patricia Lockwood is the author of the best tweet of all time—but they were not it, nor were they even an approximation of it.
The thoughts swung in a gravitational interrelation to one another, a cosmos or a very earnest, pre-telescopic philosopher’s model of a cosmos.
Imagine it. Twitter is the main exchange for writing, for quotes and quote-tweets of quotes and screenshotted paragraphs, and this was a piece of writing that was immune to Twitter. It was full of fantastic things to quote—a poet writing about how immersion in an aphoristic medium shapes thought—but it felt like a crime to go paste a quote out of it. The thing she wrote about the Unabomber, 184 characters swerving three or four times, felt like a charcoal rubbing of an inscription whose letters were already chiseled deep into my own brain, but to go to Twitter and declare that fact would have pulled the Unabomber thing away from the very next thought that followed it, and the very next thought was essential, after all. The thoughts swung in a gravitational interrelation to one another, a cosmos or a very earnest, pre-telescopic philosopher’s model of a cosmos, back when the whole thing might have been an intricately built machine, for a reason.
Also to have made a tweet out of it would have meant leaving the tab and going off to another tab. There was always that urge, anyway—to see what was going on under all those other little colored logos crammed up there—but it was empty habit, and weak. Nothing sideways from there was going to be better than the next thing down the line of words, end to end, with unbroken attention.
Lockwood had integrated all the fragments, and the sense of being fragmented, into a whole: the language and thinking of Online, used in defiance of Online. It was heroic. Just read it. Start reading it, and you might remember for a while what reading is.