Franzen: ‘Nough Said

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Franzen’s ‘Oh, shitfacker’ look. ‘I have to answer this turdball’s question without suffering from road rage? Shoot me in the fact right now, but mind the hair.’

“Reading Jonathan Franzen on form is like watching a baseball star toss a ball, knowing that behind the casual gesture is a virtuoso talent and 10,000 hours of practice.” 

– Emma Brockes (@emmabrockes), The Guardian

When I say Jonathan Franzen’s name, I feel like the douchebag from the Viagra ads being run on TV ad nauseam these days. (You know the one where the bald, tone-deaf fashionista dude is waiting for his prescription when he says, “No, no, no, Jean-Luc! I said Viagra!” Then he turns around and goes, “Just saying the name Viagra gets me off. Vi~agra,” he continues in a pseudo-Spanish accent, attempting to imitate a…matador? Who knows. Then the freak-a-zoid goes, “VIAGRA! Viagra for every man, woman and child. Viva Viagra!”)

Anywho, that’s how I feel when saying Franzen’s name out loud. Without the sick, twisted parts, that is. There’s something refreshing about a writer that openly takes on Michiko Kakutani, feels ashamed about his breakthrough/mass coming-out-party novel, uses big words and actually knows what they means, has 9 of 11 road rage signs positively identified after a recent refresher driving test, and abhors social media to the point he feels sorry for young writers today who have to spend more time [INSERT STUPID VERB HERE]-ing than writing creatively.

I was going to make this a Quote of the Day post originally, but realized after reading a great article in The Guardian titled “Jonathan Franzen interview: ‘There is no way to make myself not male’” that I’d throw in a whole bunch of quotes because it’s like every time Franzen opens his mouth some mysterious treasure emerges that makes me like him a little bit more.

Here are a few choice bits from this particular  interview, which Ms. Brockes nailed if only because she got so many great sound bites in one sitting:

ON SOCIAL MEDIA

“[I]t feels like a protection racket. Your reputation will be murdered unless you join in this thing that is, in significant part, about murdering reputations…Why would I want to feed that machine?”

ON WRITING

“[W]riting becomes more autobiographical, the less it hews to actual lived experience. The text takes on meaning when you start to depart from experience. Because then it starts to tap into the writer’s nature.”

ON HIS NOVEL THE CORRECTIONS

“I thought I would write for a small audience. And had put all the stuff that was really shameful to me… it’s hard to conceive of now, that I was ashamed of writing a book, deeply ashamed, cripplingly ashamed of writing a book that turned on a mother’s wish to have the family together for Christmas.”

ON BEING LABELLED SEXIST

“I’m not a sexist. I am not somebody who goes around saying men are superior, or that male writers are superior. In fact, I really go out of my way to champion women’s work that I think is not getting enough attention. None of that is ever enough. Because a villain is needed. It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.”

ON BLOWBACK FOR DISSING OPRAH

“It was a tragic misunderstanding. I blame myself, because I said things that were stupid. And hurt a number of people…I also blame Oprah [for the misunderstanding of his invite to be on her show] because, from our very first conversation, it was clear we were not speaking the same language. I didn’t scream when she called me. I said, ‘Oh, hey.’ And was trying to talk like a media professional to a media professional. And she didn’t know what to do with that.”

ON THE YOUNGER GENERATION

“They [the younger generation] seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry. And they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me. And part of what journalism is for me is spending time with people who I dislike as a class. But I became very fond of them, and what it did was it cured me of my anger at young people.”

ON TECHNOLOGY AND THE EAST GERMAN STASI

“Technology itself is the Stasi. Technology is the genie out of the bottle. And the Stasi didn’t actually need to do that much. It didn’t arrest that many people. Even with all its resources, it couldn’t do that many full operations. So it counted on people censoring themselves. And controlling their own behaviour for fear of the Stasi, without their needing to lift a finger.”

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