We are bookish intellectuals here! Why then should we lack for a thread in which people can complain about Jonathan Franzen’s essay? I can sort of sympathize with Franzen’s evident desire to hit a trollier-than-thou Krausian high note. Suddenly Here Comes Everybody – and they all want be just as individual and superior as I do, the bastards.
In his defense, Franzen does seem to be aware that he looks like Calvin, complaining about the results of using the Duplicator Machine.
When Coase died I thought about penning, in his honor, a prolegomenon to a possible sequel to his Theory of the Firm. I would propose a theory of the Fall of the Book, organized around an account of precipitously falling transaction costs, sentence by sentence. Why is it ever better for an individual sentence to incorporate with hundreds or thousands of others? Why isn’t all intellectual life transacted on Twitter? (I’m busy today, so maybe you could write this theory, piecemeal, in comments, so I don’t have to.)
What happens to writing when every sentence can be – hence is under peer pressure to be – its own marketing department?
I do get why Franzen feels that he, as the serious author of big, serious books, is heroically trying to hold the line. (Full disclosure: I have never read The Corrections. I don’t have the time.) But the irony is that his Guardian essay isn’t complaining about anything for which there aren’t already perfectly good, complaining memes on Know Your Meme. Still, as Kraus remarks. “Many share my views with me. But I don’t share them with them.”