Death by Twitter

Tumblr_lt0in3DOlE1qzll1yAn interesting piece by Matt Pearce in New Inquiry:

Gary Robinson was not an important man. He was an ex-con and a drunk. But veteran Miami Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanon started her story about his demise with four words that would eventually become four of the most famous words ever written about anybody in any American newspaper: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”

And that’s how a nobody died famous.

Most of us are nobodies, and we have a few writers who make nobodies famous. We keep most of them in newsrooms. So it’s not that what Teju Cole is doing — making Lagos’ nobodies famous — is, technically speaking, all that unique. What’s new is that he’s doing it on Twitter.

@tejucole, Aug. 29: Scoop, scoop, scoop, spark. Four of those who were collecting petrol from a damaged tanker in Benue died right there.

@tejucole, Aug. 25: Children are a gift from God. In the returns department: a baby girl, left by the side of Effiom Ekpo Street in Calabar.

@tejucole, Aug. 23: O believers! Know that during the Hajj, a Jeddah hotel housing 34 Nigerian pilgrims went up in flames, and none were harmed.

@tejucole, Aug. 22: Even if one does not believe in ghosts, 2,700 of them continue to draw salaries from the Imo State payroll.

@tejucole, Aug. 19: The Nigerian police motto is “the police is your friend,” but Taiwo, 25, beaten in Alapere for not paying a bribe, has his doubts.

@tejucole, Aug. 14: An Air Force officer in Bayelsa who mistook himself for a cop mistook the baker Paul Wisdom for a thief and shot him in the head.

Cole, a novelist and sometime journalist, lives in Brooklyn but grew up in Lagos, the burgeoning Nigerian metropolis that will soon overtake New York City and Los Angeles in population if it hasn’t already. (Cole’s first novel, the recently published Open City, won love from New Yorker curmudgeon James Wood — no small feat.) While working on a book about Lagos, Cole discovered the oft-bizarre tragedies sketched out daily in its newspapers and set about refining them into a purer concentration of fate’s ironies.