Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stuck In The Middle With Franzen

'Tis the silly season for lovers of the printed (virtually or otherwise) word. It all began with the industry that's built itself up around Jonathan Franzen, of course. Time Magazine and a whole heap of others think he's Jesus with a Mac Book; others are sure he's the anti-Christ. This guy (linked via ALD) equates Franzen et al with "our bankers" -- to which I can only say, "Dude: time for a reality check." If there's a family sleeping in their car because Franzen spent five years writing Freedom, let me know at once.

It's either love or hate Franzen, isn't it? I haven't yet read the new book, but I kind of like his earlier stuff. I have very distinct visual memories from The Corrections, particularly of a younger Alfred in a white shirt, standing on a railroad trestle with a ball-peen hammer in hand. Franzen is, were I to resort to a reviewer-cliche, certainly an evocative writer.

Until it comes to sex: suddenly everything feels staged, and his characters have a distant, critical, authorial point of view I simply can't buy. Perhaps I should be the last to cast a stone, but I thought Enid's discussion of family financial strategy while fellating Alfred (complete with the Crumb-y onomatopoeia "glub") was a particularly vexatious low point in The Corrections -- and it occurs just pages after the scene on the trestle.

In the main, however, I do look forward to reading the new book -- as soon as it's available at the local library.

Elsewhere: I can't write in cafes -- especially not in my former place of employment, where everybody really does know my name. But malls? Give me a Bic and scribbler, and I'm off to the races.


DarkoV said...

Forget Franzen, the magazine portrait God de jour...

What's this "my former place of employment" stuff, WP?

Now, that is what interests us, your devoted readership (and YES!, I am speaking for all of us; we took a vote and we is me).

So, onto that interesting turn of events. (Why then is "In the Mug" still listing "your former place of employment").

Paying (way) too much close detail, Darko

(NB: word Verification was "fulpha", which sounds too close to a female body part in one of Franzen's books; is he keeping tabs on you?)

Whisky Prajer said...

It's still "in the mug" because I still gather with friends and drink hot beverages there. But it is a "co-operative" and members do not reap rewards without committing some degree of risk. I considered what I was willing to invest/risk, and decided it was time I shook hands, wished luck, and bowed out.