Tweeting from beyond the grave

Four lessons from the Twitter feeds of dead writers.

Strange activity has been reported lately in a corner of Mount Zion Cemetery in Maspeth, N.Y.

The author and screenwriter Nathanael West—who died in 1940—has been tweeting to offer tips on making chicken salad (“veal and lots of celery”), cite his biggest influences (Dostoevsky and Field & Stream), and carp about weirdo admirers.

“It disturbs me to realize that some of my ‘fans’ are really really creepy,” writes West’s alter ego, Marion Meade, a biographer who has assumed his identity to promote her book about him.

West is not the only writer tweeting from beyond the grave, some under multiple handles. His friend Dorothy Parker offers her thoughts under the quote, “Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” Shakespeare is assiduously typing his 112,000-word oeuvre line by line into Twitter. And John Quincy Adams created a stir two years ago when he began tweeting on the 200th anniversary of his trip to Russia.

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