“Like Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood, Cole is one of the few novelists who sees Twitter as an extension of, rather than a distraction from, his work. He isn’t afraid to start a fight on social media and frequently challenges what he sees as lazy or pernicious opinions, particularly from western reporters writing about Africa. “The question could be: why are you so political?” he says. “Whereas my question would be: why aren’t you? And I think that comes from the non-American part of me which is saying that novelists in every other country, with the exception of the American or the Anglo-American sphere, actually consider it part of their work to engage.
Uniquely among Twitter users, perhaps, Cole isn’t afraid to talk about how seriously he takes it, and his tweets – jokes about current events, or cleverly compressed critiques, for example of the World Cup – “World Cup Protests Marred By Opening Ceremony” – are, he says, the fruit of as much time and thinking as anything else he writes. ‘I write drafts.’
‘Yes, I know it’s weird. It’s a little bit annoying, also. Two drafts of a tweet? Insufferable. But what’s the point in being ashamed of your instrument? And writers in the past were pamphleteers. There are so many different ways to disseminate ideas and put them out. And this just happens to be mine. I often have to tell myself it’s OK to be a writer. And it’s OK that not everyone is. But I am, and I’m going to do that. It’s like saying, Oh, someone’s an accountant and when they’re reckoning the bill in a restaurant, they can afford to be sloppy because they’re an accountant all the time. When I tweet, I’m still a writer.’ “