I don’t want to step on my husband’s post, so I am merely supplementing it, because I think there is something that deserves enough excerpts to warrant a post rather than a comment. To wit, this article from The Toast, “You Wouldn’t Like Jonathan Franzen When He’s Angry.” I am turning off comments to this post so we can talk in the thread below.
Jonathan Franzen is the angriest novelist in the world. He is the novelist who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.
He is angry because Salman Rushdie uses Twitter, and nowadays people can buy books on the Internet, and the Home Depot, and he had to go to Germany one time, and also some women exist who have not had sex with him….
Think of all the women who have never slept with Jonathan Franzen. His anger must grow by the day. Soon it will envelop the world, and we will be forced to bow down in chains before it, and create ziggurats out of human corpses as terrible tribute. Some of these women who Failed To F#ck Jonathan Franzen might now be on Twitter, which is wrong because of a German essayist who is now dead.
To quote one of the most internetty minds of our generation, “heh, indeed.” Now I will speak my part, and then fall silent, except for the part about where we get into a huge argument in comments because I think pretty much all the Important Male Novelists of the mid to late 20th-century are such sexist dillweeds that it is actually impossible to enjoy the books. For me. Except William S. Burroughs, and that is because he does not want to sex chicks up. Not even a little bit. He wants us to be able to make clones, and then just go live on another planet with only men and boys and million-year-old crab creatures made of radioactive cadmium and then have gay sex there. It is astringently refreshing to have a novelist not care about having sex with you at all. It’s the best! Goodbye, poorly drawn female characters who exist as trophies for when the protagonists level up after a boss battle with Freudian analysis!
Now, dudes, part of shared bank accounts and having children and shit like that is that you can coordinate on stuff and divide responsibilities sensibly. Am I going to sit down and read about the Fourfold Root? No, I will ask my husband, “hey peaches, what’s this with the Schopenhauer here, am I giving a f*@k or what?” Then he can answer on account of having written a dissertation about it. And he arranges for everyone to go to the dentist, and parent-teacher conferences, and guy stuff like that which I as a mother, am not really into. Similarly, as John is a busy person who doesn’t have time to read novels which are both extremely long and quite bad, I can read them on our joint behalf. No, I can also read long good books on our behalf, so I can tell John crucial stuff about Proust like when the last volume opens and it seems as if all the characters have come in fancy dress but then… I read very quickly, stupidly quickly, a skill I primarily use to read the equivalent of a 500 page paperback, but made of internet bullshit, every day (I’ve checked). The Corrections, Jesus. It didn’t even have to be bad! There were many aspects of it that were very well observed and memorable. It needed an editor. It needed a nano-particle of self-awareness that was doing something other than comparing the distance of Franzen’s masturbatory ejecta to that of Philip Roth. Something that might, eventually, if nurtured in a caring bosom, maybe some kind of DH Lawrence glorying sheaf of wheat in the firelight thing, become humility. Just for like a second! It needed negative 4089 C of sexism to return to conditions amenable to reading rather than being the heart of a the giant blue-white star which is poised, even now, to go supernova in the center of the swirling storm of Eta Carinae. Let us never speak of Jonathan Franzen again.