Cranky Kaplan and Wise Kaplan Unmasked


By Mike Taylor Comment


The jig is up for Cranky Kaplan and Wise Kaplan, the two fictionalized alter-egos of former New York Observer editor and current Conde Nast Traveler creative director Peter Kaplan. Slate today offers an overwhelmingly thorough exposition and analysis of the two 140-character caricatures.

Slate reveals that former Observer executive editor Peter Stevenson and fellow NYO alum Jim Windolf co-write both Twitter handles.

Like many New York media nerds (us included), Slate’s Nathan Heller truly adores Wise and Cranky Kaplan. He states the literary value of the twin feeds in no uncertain terms:

Stevenson and Windolf, though, knew him as a boss, mentor, and eccentric. The Twitter parodies were meant to be an inside joke. Yet through their online comedy act, the journalists have nudged Twitter in a new, more literary direction. Unlike contrived and headache-inducing concepts like the “Twitter novel” or the serialized essay — long forms awkwardly broken into 140-character bits — the Kaplan narratives are colorful, varied, and fully wedded to the medium.

And! (!!!)

The sentences above have a lovely, faux-poetic economy at odds with the creepy encounter they describe. To conjure such a character and moment in just 136 characters, and with oblique humor and allusive style to boot, calls for a deftness that is rare in Web 2.0 prose. The best Wise Kaplan tweets are occasionally the most precise writing I read all week.

Anyway, go read the dang thing, and congratulations to Heller for solving the mystery.