The Self-Appointed Moralist of America: Jonathan Franzen

by Rachel Baker on September 16, 2015

So…until the last quarter of the article, I had no idea it was a lead in for Franzen’s new book, Purity. I’ve never read Franzen’s novels, anything I have read by Franzen sort of seemed like a bit like he was speaking to hear himself speak. In hindsight, I think maybe I’ll pick up one or two of his books to “see for myself”.

I’ve been holding on to this article for a while until I had to time to just sit, read and digest. Truth be told, the title of the article was actually sort of nauseating, but I was interested in what Christian Lorentzen had to say. I’m glad I read it, as it was well-written. If you get nothing from it, its as good an explanation as any on how Franzen became so popular.

Read the Full article:

Jonathan Franzen’s Great Expectations: How America’s foremost novelist became its leading public moralist.

In his self-appointment as America’s moralist, Franzen has suffered from the lack of a worthy female foil, as Mailer had in Sontag, Cynthia Ozick, and Germaine Greer. Oprah was too big for him; when he was talking about her, he was talking to himself. Perhaps because he’s lonely at the top, Franzen elevated Jennifer Weiner — the best-selling but subliterary novelist who’s led the #Franzenfreude charge, claiming that he’s sucked up the oxygen of review attention in a sexist literary culture — by accusing her of “freeloading” on a good cause with the aim of self-promotion. It was the best favor he could have given her. With every interview, often with obscure campus magazines, Franzen seems always to forget he has a habit of confusing his mouth with a shoe. Promoting Purity, he told an interviewer that he’d entertained the idea of adopting an Iraq War orphan, in part to learn about the way young people think.

He can’t really believe that he’ll ever put a stop to online distraction or rein in those pesky cats, but his literary statements do carry weight, especially when he goes to bat for an unknown pen pal like Nell Zink. In Farther Away, Franzen says of Roth: “For a while, Philip Roth was my new bitter enemy, but lately, unexpectedly, he has become a friend.” Franzen has always conceived of writing as a competition, with all writers everywhere, living or dead, aligned either with him or against him, or both at once. His critical writings often read like peace treaties or declarations of war, or like the posturings of a permanent undergraduate at pains to take a side. They frequently contain eccentric statements about what it means to read a novel, like this one: “My small hope for literary criticism would be to hear less about orchestras and subversion and more about the erotic and culinary arts. Think of the novel as a lover: Let’s stay home tonight and have a great time; just because you’re touched where you want to be touched, it doesn’t mean you’re cheap.”

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to follow on Twitter; or you can follow her at The Crafty Veteran on Bloglovin. You can also follow her writing about women veteran interests at Shield Sisters

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Amazon Wish ListEvernoteFlipboardInstapaperNewsVineSpringpadWordPressTypePad PostStumbleUponLiveJournalPocketRedditShare

Previous post:

Next post: