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Does @MayorEmanuel Work As A Book?

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 7, 2011 3:00PM

2011_9_7dansiknerepicquest.jpeg A friend of ours once said, "Twitter is the diarrhea of the internet." Most of the time we find it hard to disagree. The endless stream of inane whining, pointless updates concerning people's banal day-to-day activities, and corporate hackery can make reading Twitter the equivalent of gluing your ears to a giant ham radio.

But there are exceptions, and @MayorEmanuel was certainly a notable one. Now creator Dan Sinker has compiled all six months of the twitterstream into The F***ing Epic Quest of @MayorEmanuel, a book which adds bits of context, including an epilogue about how his identity was unmasked, as well as a foreword from Biz Stone.

So, does it still hold together? The answer is yes. In fact we'd go so far to argue that it's even better as a book. The reason isn't so surprising. The one thing that all narrative forms have in common, whether a novel, a video game, a movie, a play, or an opera, is the good ones work better when they have your undivided attention. In the world of Twitter that very concept is foreign. But in the book all that background blather, such as the silly retweet commentary from friends and strangers, is stripped away. We're left with the "story" itself.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see how crafty Sinker's improv really was. The story, which encompasses not only the absurdity of the "real life" mayoral campaign but also the Chicago Bears' epic collapse and last year's historic blizzard, is juiced considerably by Sinker's pocket-sized surrealism. He takes a mélange of pop culture tangents (including, of course, numerous references to Star Wars and Kanye West) and layers them on top of vivid characters; Quaxelrod the duck, Hambone the dog, and Carl the Intern remain unforgettable creations. Oh, and of course there's @MayorEmanuel's colorful language (we crunched the numbers), which Sinker wittily alludes to in the book's epigraph, a Mark Twain quote: "Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

The contextual material new to the book is not exactly essential, though it does serve up some trivia. (Example: for many years Sinker owned a white '94 Honda Civic, which inspired the car that the fictional David Alexrod drives.) Casual readers can probably skip over it--the story itself is the thing. Not only is it still hilarious, it's a truly evocative time capsule of a very specific place and time, a result of the on-the-fly environment in which it was written. As a Chicagoan, it's hard not to read the book now without thinking back to where you were when the tweets went out. @MayorEmanuel may or may not ever return, but his original twitterstream remains a clever yarn worth revisiting.

The MCA Store will hold an informal book launch for The F***ing Epic Quest of @MayorEmanuel with Sinker and special guests author Joe Meno and local news legend Carol Marin on Tuesday, September 13 at 6 p.m.