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March 7, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

#JonathanFranzenHates: "Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose… it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters… it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’… It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium." [Via: Slate.com] More [Via: The Guardian]
posted by Fizz (155 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
#JonathanFranzenMissesTheEntirePointofTwitter

Twitter is small talk. Yes, you cannot easily have a solid argument with someone on Twitter. That is a feature, not a bug. It's group-broadcast smalltalk.
posted by FritoKAL at 7:55 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


"It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium."

That's part of what makes it so great.
posted by naju at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, why is Jonathan Franzen still talking and why are we still listening
posted by naju at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2012 [35 favorites]


#getoffmylawn
#whippersnappers
posted by Etrigan at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it'd be easier if he just made a list of things he DOESN'T hate.

#JonathanFranzenLikes

1. Books written by Jonathan Franzen
2. Black Glasses
3. Oprah Winfrey Publicity
4. Hype
posted by Fizz at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2012 [22 favorites]


I tend to agree. It was the last tweets post that convinced me of this - they're so banal and meaningless.

Kafka semaphoring The Metamorphosis and writing a novel without the letter 'P' would be much more interesting than twitter.
posted by iotic at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Twitter isn't meant to replace books, essays, articles, or any other form of communication. Franzen knows this and is just being a publicity-seeking contrarian ass.
posted by rocket88 at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


5. Philtrums
posted by leotrotsky at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’

Is this fake, or is Jonathan Franzen actually unaware of lipograms?
posted by cog_nate at 8:01 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


He apparently hates unattractive women, especially when they dare to be authors. He hates complicated, nasty heroines (though he's okay with them if they are heroes). He seems to hate women reading his books. He hates so much it makes me feel like I am a happy person living in a land of unicorns and kittens and, perhaps, unicorn kittens.
posted by jeather at 8:02 AM on March 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


That is a feature, not a bug

It's both. It's designed to support lots of small messages, and it does that really well, and it's interesting to see what people do with that. That's the feature.

It's completely unable to support substantial conversation. That's a bug.

Particularly when you ask yourself if what we really need as a society/culture is another medium for smalltalk.

Not saying it isn't good for some things, though.
posted by weston at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


He apparently hates unattractive women, especially when they dare to be authors.

Do you have a cite for his misogyny? I'm curious.
posted by Think_Long at 8:04 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, why is Jonathan Franzen still talking and why are we still listening

Because if you're not paying very much attention and just glance at his name quickly, you might think he's Jonathan Lethem.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:05 AM on March 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


I hate twitter, but I don't like Franzen either.
posted by jonmc at 8:05 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


look its okay to be one of those twitter people, it is okay to like something thats bad for you without having to justify it
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2012


Oscar Wilde would have hated Twitter. It's no place for epigrammatic thought. 140-characters. How could you ever fit Wilde into that?

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally. "

"A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies. "

"All art is quite useless."

None of them work!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


Someday I will stop confusing that guy with Johan Franzen but today is not that day.

Doesn't look good for the rest of the year either, come to it.
posted by cmyk at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


He apparently hates unattractive women, especially when they dare to be authors.

Do you have a cite for his misogyny? I'm curious.

See Franzenfraude
posted by Fizz at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2012


This is precisely the kind of incisive criticism that was semi-relevant in 2008.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And haiku are irresponsible poems. Why say it in 17 syllables when 90,000 will do?
posted by fatllama at 8:12 AM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


When nobody was looking, Franzen seems to have made the transition from "overrated crank" to "full-blown troll."
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:12 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


He wrote a New Yorker article -- behind a paywall -- about Edith Wharton which pretty much said that she was too rich, too obsessed with sales figures, and especially too ugly. He also didn't like how her characters were antiheroineish.
posted by jeather at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…

Jonathan Franzen has clearly never read Ella Minnow Pea.
posted by maryr at 8:15 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think we call all agree:

Jonathan Frakes > Jonathan Franzen
posted by entropicamericana at 8:16 AM on March 7, 2012 [43 favorites]


It's completely unable to support substantial conversation. That's a bug.

That's like saying gmail has a bug because it's completely unable to edit photographs.

I don't particularly care for Twitter; but it does what it says on the tin.
posted by steambadger at 8:17 AM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


On the flip side, not everyone treats Twitter as "smalltalk" - it's a tool, a medium, and a message. Counterpoint: Teju Cole, who just won the PEN/Hemingway for his first novel, posts some really insightful stuff on Twitter.

It's Franzen who is "unspeakably irritating."
posted by mattbucher at 8:17 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jonathan Frakes > Jonathan Franzen

that's one of the worst insults I've ever seen
posted by sineater at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twitter is unspeakably irritating

Funny for a prolix author to say so, especially while engaged in an explication of its irritating qualities
posted by clockzero at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2012


Jonathan Frakes > Jonathan Franzen

that's one of the worst insults I've ever seen


Insult to Frakes or Franzen?
posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


that's one of the worst insults I've ever seen

Deal with it.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:20 AM on March 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


Insult to Frakes or Franzen?

sorry, to Franzen. not that he doesn't deserve it. haven't read the guy but I'm no fan of Frakes :-)
posted by sineater at 8:21 AM on March 7, 2012


it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis

Semaphore Metamorphosis would have to be better than the Semaphore version of Wuthering Heights.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


also it is kind of creepy how franzen saying twitter sucks is met with a bunch of dirt-digging and stuff about his character

it is creepy to me how people will develop an attachment to twitter or linux or whatever and then do marketing/defense for free and shit, you know?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Frakes or Franzen?

Frakes or Franzen? is the name of my new Jonathan Coulton cover band.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think that tweet about how Franzen hates emoticons "because it takes 600 pages to accurately convey emotion" isn't quite right; it's because there's no emoticon for whiny petulance.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


I remain opposed to both Jonathans Frakes and Franzen.

Jonathan Winters was funny though.

It disturbs me how much I enjoy the Franzen hate, probably because I really disliked The Corrections but kept hearing about how Important it was. But it makes me feel a bit petty to pile on to an author just because I dislike his work.

It would help if he stopped pontificating about things he disliked, perhaps.
posted by emjaybee at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ella Minnow Pea was what I thought of too, maryr. He should read it, it might cheer him up a bit.
posted by pymsical at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's because there's no emoticon for whiny petulance.

_██_
(ಠ_ృ)
posted by Fizz at 8:26 AM on March 7, 2012 [50 favorites]


Has anyone considered that 140 characters at a time is all most people deserve?
posted by keratacon at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Given the choice between 140 characters from someone I actually like and having to slog through another one of his tedious "oh it's hard to be middle class and white" tomes, I think I'll take the 140 characters.
posted by Kitteh at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh man what if kate beaton or somebody suddenly started hating twitter

man what if
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:29 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


@P
What the fuck, @Franzen? I thought we were friends. #ass
posted by chairface at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


#JonathanFranzenHates it when people stop talking about him, no matter whether his work or his ideas have any merit
posted by RogerB at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw his hate of twitter mentioned earlier and assumed it was a parody based on his ebook rant - guess not.

How does he feel about D&D 4th edition?
posted by Artw at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2012


Even if you don't think the premise applies to you, the conclusion doesn't seem to be argued against here. If you hate pointless small talk, then you will hate twitter. This is a nice concise explanation for people to whom it applies.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:33 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


He also hates eBooks and readers. Whatever. Ignore him and move on and we shall see which technologies (and authors) stand the test of time.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2012


It's completely unable to support substantial conversation. That's a bug.

Not doing something that it wasn't intended to do isn't a bug. That people attempt to make it do that thing anyway is why people have used the API to build things like Twitlonger.
posted by asnider at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2012


it is creepy to me how people will develop an attachment to twitter or linux or whatever and then do marketing/defense for free and shit, you know?

I suppose this could be creepy, but I tend to read trollery like Franzen's as "this thing is stupid and you people who use it are stupid for using it", and I think being called stupid and irresponsible is a reasonable thing to take offense at. I feel pretty much the same way about people who call me a neckbeard for using Linux or whatever. I mean, you know, they can pretty much fuck off already.
posted by brennen at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


THIS WRENCH IS USELESS
I CANNOT EVEN USE IT TO POUND IN NAILS OR CUT LUMBER
I MEAN WHAT THE FUCK
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [36 favorites]


Personally, I liked the part where Franzen got annoyed.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


#JonathanFrakesHates being mistaken for Jonathan Franzen.
posted by ODiV at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2012


There are many good arguments for using Twitter. It's not meant for long discourses, as many have already said, but here are a few good reas
posted by The Deej at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I am glad that Franzen said that, because it led to this conversation, which reminded me of Ella Minnow Pea, which led me to discover the author has more books which I have not yet read.
posted by jeather at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2012


I don't have anything to add to the above criticsm, because I think Franzen is a putz and the previous comments have done a far better job of calling him out than I could manage.

I do want to say, though, that a lot of MeFites called this guy out more than 10 years ago, and that's pretty awesome.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2012


"People I care about are readers…particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”

Quite right, old chap, quite right. Another snifter of port for our good man Franzen, garçon.
posted by griphus at 8:38 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Full disclosure: I like Twitter and I like Franzen.

I saw him address these comments in person last night-- and he made what I thought were some excellent points, comparing social media to the compulsion of smoking. When you're not smoking/tweeting you feel like you're missing something, but last Thursday's 3pm cigarette/tweet is not memorable at all in retrospect. I know the comments references in Slate/Guardian pieces were more inflammatory than that, but I feel like he has a pretty nuanced and insightful understanding of social media. He was also critical of users' willingness to prop up (or "flog," I think he said) some tech company's latest product with such uncritical enthusiasm, which seems to me a perspective that is too often left in the background. Now, these are certainly not the whole story about social media, and are pretty clearly from the perspective of an outsider, but they encapsulate what makes me most uncomfortable about these technologies, despite my enthusiastic use of them. That's worth something.

Also, the person who asked him about the comments wondered how he felt he could write about the modern condition without engaging with its technologies. He basically said (and this is a mega-paraphrase) that a little bit of engagement goes a long way and that being fully engaged with things like twitter would prevent him from being able to write about them from the perspective he needs, as a writer, to come from.

Ultimately, he said, that twitter is exactly what a novel isn't. I don't know why that's a surprise or why it's not ok. Clicking on that #JonathanFranzenHates link demonstrates that pretty well, and also points out what is most irritating about twitter.
posted by activitystory at 8:39 AM on March 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


why do the comments here seem as though lifted from a British tabloid?
posted by Postroad at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Today, I will kill several birds in his honor.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:44 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


and here i've just been killing birds because of my undiagnosed mental illness
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


activitystory, I appreciate what you said. Of course twitter is not without problems as a method of communication but I also think that it has a purpose. It is possible to enjoy great literature and use twitter at the same time, but he often comes off as if it's an either/or situation. That is what tends to upset so many people.
posted by Fizz at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like Franzen's books quite a bit, don't like Twitter as much. Do any of you mefites much care what I like or don't like though? Then why care what Franzen likes or doesn't like. It seems a bit much to post all these Franzen sucks personal attacks because of his fairly blase opinions about a piece of tech.

To me Twitter is a mystery that I don't much like, my response to 95% of tweets that I read is 'meh' and I don't really like things that make me feel meh, it's a shitty feeling.

Twitter works in telling me news about my library, restaurants, city hall etc, personal tweets though still mystify me.
posted by Cosine at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Then why care what Franzen likes or doesn't like.

He is in a position where he can and does influence the publishing world, writers, readers, etc. When you take on the role of a writer —you attempt to speak on behalf of your culture, it's people, it's social concerns.

Also, I doubt he truly gives a fuck.
posted by Fizz at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


griphus: Quite right, old chap, quite right. Another snifter of port for our good man Franzen, garçon.

Port's not served in snifters. Brandy (and sometimes whiskey) is. Port is served in (port wine) glasses.
posted by Dysk at 8:51 AM on March 7, 2012


Port's not served in snifters. Brandy (and sometimes whiskey) is. Port is served in (port wine) glasses.
posted by Dysk at 11:51 AM on March 7 [+] [!]


#GriphusHatesBeingCorrectedAboutDrinking
posted by Fizz at 8:53 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


In some ways the 140 character limit is the best thing Twitter has going for it. Enforced brevity! Instant wit(ishness). They day they crack the 140-ceiling is the day Twitter finally becomes completely unbearable.
posted by Pathos Bill at 8:55 AM on March 7, 2012


Wow, a lot of Franzen hate here. Look, here's how I manage to enjoy his books:
  1. Read book.
  2. Do not look at cover photo.
  3. In the event of violating (2), yell LALALALA NOT A POSTMODERNIST HIPSTER LALALALA
posted by spamguy at 8:56 AM on March 7, 2012


Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’

cog_nate> Is this fake, or is Jonathan Franzen actually unaware of lipograms?

Yeah, I thought A Void by Georges Perec was really hugely enjoyable.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 8:56 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


@cosine he's influencing culture in a way that's wrong because it's not our way and plus i identify very strongly with this product/service

i mean like really strongly

and also hes not physically attractive so theres that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:58 AM on March 7, 2012


#GriphusDrinksPortOutOfASoapLadleOverTheSink
posted by griphus at 9:00 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


A soap ladle, eh?
posted by whir at 9:04 AM on March 7, 2012


comparing social media to the compulsion of smoking. When you're not smoking/tweeting you feel like you're missing something, but last Thursday's 3pm cigarette/tweet is not memorable at all in retrospect.

Calling bull on both of these, actually. Franzen's pooh-poohing of smoking and tweeting seems to be a result of the importance he places on each activity, rather than trying to understand why other folk might like them (and I do like them both; indeed, I will happily tell you about the last cigarette I had and what it entailed, and the last tweet I talked about, and how I described the way its wormed its way into my day-to-day consciousness). Obviously dude gets no pleasure from either smoking or tweeting, but to denounce both practices as though there's a universal to be drawn out of his own personal idiosyncracy seems a almost self-parodically Franzenesque kind of solipsism.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis

So unfair. It's more like a video semaphoring only the rectos of The Metamorphosis in every third frame, spliced in with three other videos of some guy nodding, winking, and flipping off random sources offscreen.
posted by diorist at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


but smoking will give you cancer and shit though
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2012


I used to think I hated twitter, but upon reflection, what I really hate is society for using twitter.
posted by mullingitover at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you disagree with him it is obligatory that your counterargument can be stated in 140 characters or less.
posted by WalkingAround at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2012


I stopped listening after 140 characters.
posted by mazola at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2012


If you disagree with him it is obligatory that your counterargument can be stated in 140 characters or less.

novelists who live in shallowly judgmental, humorless houses shouldn't throw stones
posted by RogerB at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]




If you disagree with him it is obligatory that your counterargument can be stated in 140 characters or less.


His novels are terrible and show zero insight into how humans think or act.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Corrections" even sounds like a book by a picky jerk.
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


but smoking will give you cancer and shit though

Man, are you going to be unhappy when they discover twancer.
posted by mightygodking at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


If you disagree with him it is obligatory that your counterargument can be stated in 140 characters or less.

I publish a twitter zine (7x20) and while it's not winning any national book awards, the haiku and very short stories in it are good.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have seen more political change come from tweets than Franzen novels.
posted by drezdn at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you disagree with him it is obligatory that your counterargument can be stated in 140 characters or less.

To take this perhaps more seriously than it was intended, you have neatly summarized how a lot of people insist on misunderstanding things like Twitter.

That a medium or a format has utility or interest for a person does not, in the context of an internet where we have blogs, e-mail, IRC, forums, MetaFilter, ranty YouTube videos, Amazon reviews, et cetera ad infinitum, impose some sort of totalizing constraint on that person's expression or consumption of information.

I mean, for example, William Gibson says things on Twitter. I find them interesting enough to follow him. How exactly are these facts supposed to negate either of Mona Lisa Overdrive or the handwritten letter I'm putting in the mail to my parents this afternoon?
posted by brennen at 9:36 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


zero insight into how humans think or act

Obviously dude gets no pleasure from either smoking or tweeting, but to denounce both practices as though there's a universal to be drawn out of his own personal idiosyncracy seems a almost self-parodically Franzenesque kind of solipsism

I guess this is ultimately what's funny about the whole thing: Franzen wants to embrace and advocate what he thinks of as Serious Humanist Values, moral judgment, deep empathy, and all those old-fashioned novelistic virtues — but because he's actually very bad at empathizing with humans, he only knows how to do it in this empty, symbolic way that turns these things into cultural-consumption status symbols. He seems to really think you can prove you're deep by being a non-Tweeter the same way you prove you're healthy by (not just not smoking but) being a "non-smoker" — that is, by loudly proclaiming it and being judgmental about others' choices on the matter, as well as your own. So what's a little galling about the whole thing is that it seems to reflect on his work more than he realizes: the same way we see him bitching about Twitter from a standpoint of total ignorance, we have this kinda rigid, robotic, deeply un-empathetic guy writing novels that noisily congratulate himself and his readers for their Deep Ethical Humanism.
posted by RogerB at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I FPPed this a while back, about how Jeff Noon is doing some very fun stuff with twitter these days.
posted by Artw at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2012


He wrote a New Yorker article -- behind a paywall -- about Edith Wharton which pretty much said that she was too rich, too obsessed with sales figures, and especially too ugly. He also didn't like how her characters were antiheroineish.

That piece kinda pissed me off, too--but this is a hopelessly unfair summary of it.
posted by yoink at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2012


The LARB ran a nice angry rejoinder to the Wharton thing the other day. If the original piece weren't paywalled that would've been a much more interesting Franzen-controversy FPP.
posted by RogerB at 9:41 AM on March 7, 2012



Man, are you going to be unhappy when they discover twancer.


Oh god he's got rapid-acting Cancer of the twee! Oh god the tumors are erupting from his skin! AND THEY'RE ADORABLE!!
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Last night my friend's expensive, rare, vintage music gear got stolen. I tweeted about it, asking local musicians and people in the city to watch out for it in pawn shops and the like. Within an hour of the tweet, it got retweeted by several influential people and was presumably seen by over 5,000 eyeballs. That's not bad for "the ultimate irresponsible medium."
posted by naju at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


@RogerB

i agree that cultural-consumption status symbols are annoying

what were we talking about again??
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:43 AM on March 7, 2012


I imagine Franzen's favorite activity is leaving a window open in the middle of a New England winter and then scolding his family for using the wrong type of firewood in the antique stove.
posted by reenum at 9:46 AM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


[TACOTY: cut the part about "tweeted from my kindle" b/c too on-the-nose. --Ed.]
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In some ways the 140 character limit is the best thing Twitter has going for it. Enforced brevity! Instant wit(ishness). They day they crack the 140-ceiling is the day Twitter finally becomes completely unbearable.

But then a pretty good percentage of Twitter users tend to actually kinda ignore the 140 character limit and just serialize their thoughts into as many 140-character-chunks as necessary. Others don't so much add 'instant wit' as they subtract some of the characters that would previously have been vital for actually comprehending the sentence(s).
posted by kingbenny at 9:48 AM on March 7, 2012


Just as a clarification (because I think I under-explained his metaphor). Franzen mentioned enjoying cigarettes very much (I guess he is a former smoker) but the point he was making that the next cigarette and the NOW cigarette seem to mean so much more than any randomly-selected cigarette from the past (not the most recent memorable one). I know there are of course Very Important Cigarettes / Tweets that would be an exception to this, but, at least in my case, this metaphor made sense to me and described 80% of my use of twitter. Looking through my timeline, the world would not be a worse place if most of my tweets were gone. I'm not a smoker, though, so I'm coming from a standpoint of total ignorance there.

It wasn't lost on him that he positioned both as harmful, and he acknowledged his personal bias. When I had originally read his comments (and some of his earlier thoughts on technology), I thought he was just a luddite who had no idea what was going on, but seeing him discuss this in person gave me the sense he'd thought very much about these things and understood them in a way I didn't. So, it was useful for me, but YMMV.
posted by activitystory at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2012


Franzen wouldn't know about instant wit cause he's clearly never been as much as in the same room as wit.
posted by The Whelk at 9:50 AM on March 7, 2012


"J-Dawg! Baby! . . . Sorry, sorry. A joke. Mr. Franzen, sir? It's Ethan, from FSG publicity? . . . Right, right. . . . Maybe five times. Since the last time we spoke. . . . No, I haven't read it all the way through five times, but I keep Freedom next to the bed like a Gideon's Bible. Open it up at 3pm, just flip to a page for some comfort and insight. . . . Yes, it is great. Capital-G. Great American Novel.

"So, look, Mr. Franzen, the reason I'm calling is, we, uh, wanted to discuss your, uh, publicity strategy? . . . No, of course not. Absolutely not. We do this strategy stuff, not you. Of course. You just keep on Great American Novelizin'. . . . Anyway, we had a thought. Maybe you should just, you know, lay low for awhile. Keep a low profile. . . . Yeah, no, you can do your thing, festivals and readings, all that. We're not talking Pynchon low. But just maybe no big media. Maybe nothing where you kind of make pronouncements about how things are these days and that sort of . . . Of course I read it. . . . No, the original one, in Harper's. . . . In the print version, yes. Absolutely.

"So yeah, would you perhaps consider just not, uh, commenting on the whole media sideshow? Because we feel, uh, it sort of takes away from the, the, uh, gravitas of your novels when you seem maybe just a little - just a titch - out of touch. . . . No, no. No no no no no. Your insights, Mr. Franzen, they're penetrating. Did I say that? No, the New York Review of Books did! The cover of Time . . . Of course. But, you know, if you don't really use social media, and then you say things about it that don't quite, uh, fit? Yeah, it looks just the tiniest bit, just the wee-est little titch, like maybe you're not the great social novelist of our time that we all know you are. Like maybe you don't actually get people as well as . . . Right . . . Of course . . . . . . . . . Right . . . . . . . . . Absolutely . . .

"Look, Mr. Franzen, here's what we thought. We thought, would David Foster Wallace bother telling us what he thought of Twitter? Of course not. . . . That's right. . . . Beneath him. Beneath you.

"Great. . . . Right, yes, let's talk again soon! . . . No, no, this is a landline. . . . I own one but I don't . . . Right, it's gone. I just threw it out the window. You'll never have to see it. . . . No, no, thank you, Mr. Franzen! Ciao! . . . Sorry. Goodbye, sir."
posted by gompa at 9:59 AM on March 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


In the interests of diversity, I'm going to say I generally enjoyed reading Franzen and even found him insightful. That is all.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's Roxane Gay at HTMLGIANT on writers on Twitter: Do As Franzen Does. Do What You Like.
posted by muckster at 10:05 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish I could favourite that more than once, gompa.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2012


Maybe twitter serves the purpose of actual birds tweeting, or basically mostly all of animal communication: you don't tell a tweeting bird to shut up because he already tweeted that, the ongoing tweeting is itself the message. When that twittering stops, and there is silence, that is the most important message, that danger is near.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2012


Emperor Franzen

In the interests of diversity, I'm going to say I generally enjoyed reading Franzen and even found him insightful. That is all.

The time I tried to defend Jonathan Franzen to the Internet
posted by mrgrimm at 10:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Within an hour of the tweet, it got retweeted by several influential people and was presumably seen by over 5,000 eyeballs. That's not bad for "the ultimate irresponsible medium."

Yes, but if your friend was an author, that tweet would never be preserved for posterity for in a posthumous Collected Letters of... anthology. And any individual not living their life in such a manner as to be able to sell a posthumous Collected Letters of... anthology, they are living it wrong. Just like the people using Twitter for any reason whatsoever.
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on March 7, 2012


Please internet get to work right now on a Twitter feed that publishes JF's novel's in 140-character chunks.
posted by chavenet at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2012


[can eliminate butcher's apostrophe to save a character]
posted by chavenet at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2012


Twitter is unspeakably irritating.

If only.
posted by zippy at 10:52 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm outraged by twitter because you can't write a novel on it!
posted by gallois at 10:55 AM on March 7, 2012


Look at me, Jonathan Franzen! I'm on your lawn and I'm not getting off!

Also, fuck you, you lipogram-ignorant stupidass-opinions-haver, La Disparition by Georges Perec is a better novel than you'll ever write, and it doesn't have the letter E in it at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


yoink, I actually don't think that's an unfair summary of the Wharton piece. On what planet other than Franzensanus would it be appropriate to devote any column-inches to the reviewer's evaluation of the author's appearance? (And for Wharton scholars it was especially infuriating, as the young Wharton had a reputation for being attractive if awkward, so Franzen's argument was crap anyway.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In honor of Perec & Oulipo, Ima start calling him Jnthn Frnzn
posted by chavenet at 11:01 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went from ignoring twitter to making fun of twitter, to trying twitter, to not really getting twitter, to giving up on twitter, and then finally back to ignoring it again. Oh, and I had a twitter impersonator for a while. That was fun.

Ultimately, I realized that I simply have no twitter-shaped hole in my life. It fills no need for me. It seems best-suited for people who are in some kind of profession where they need to promote themselves. Basically, if you have a job for which business cards or headshots are standard equipment, then you probably use twitter.

And it's not like I have a problem with fleeting communication; I update my Facebook status all the time. But I just can't say anything I want to say in fewer than 140 characters. When I found myself playing little games with wording and punctuation to get my updates down to 140 characters, I knew it was time to jump ship.

As for Franzen.... gah, the haterade here is intense. It reminds me of how people rate restaurants on Yelp : they're not really rating the restaurant, they're rating how they feel about themselves eating at the restaurant. If it's a neat little "undiscovered" place, they'll give it a high rating because they feel all hip and cool eating there. But if it's a restaurant with 500+ reviews, they'll give it a low rating and call it "overrated" unless they had, like the best eating experience of their life. And even if they did have a great meal, they're still likely to give it 3 stars and complain about the price.

I've liked the books I've read by him, although I think that's partially because I'm from his hometown, and he's the first writer I've read who understands what it's like to be from a place like STL.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:19 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


On what planet other than Franzensanus would it be appropriate to devote any column-inches to the reviewer's evaluation of the author's appearance?

You know who would disagree vehemently with you about the importance of personal attractiveness in a complete portrait of someone's social position and success? Edith Wharton, that's who.

Now, whether or not Franzen got his facts wrong (I certainly think he misinterpreted many of Wharton's novels) is another question. But personal attractiveness is clearly an important factor in Wharton's social world--one whose power she is constantly assessing in her own novels. It's absurd to suggest that it is beyond the pale to turn that question to Wharton herself and ask what consequences, if any, her own looks had for her development in that world.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


As somebody who loves Wharton, I did not see the sexism in that piece. And yes, there was a lot of stuff about her appearance. But it is not gratuitous -- the article is saying something really interesting about Wharton's prospects for success in society and the fate of her heroines.

And although I didn't like Freedom that much, The Corrections and his other books and essays are really good. I'm sorry to see so much hate for a freakin' author, for christ's sake. You'd think he killed your all's dog or somethin.'
posted by angrycat at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2012


Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’

cog_nate> Is this fake, or is Jonathan Franzen actually unaware of lipograms?

Yeah, I thought A Void by Georges Perec was really hugely enjoyable.


I have to recommend Christian Bök's Eunoia as a perfect companion to A Void. Bök's book is similar to what Twitter can be at its best: pulling something brilliant out of an artificial constraint.

As for Franzen, I haven't read any of his work so I can't comment on him as a writer. His trite opinions on Twitter, ebooks and William Gaddis make him pretty irrelevant to my particular worldview, so I suppose I'll just keep whistlin' and continue to not read any of his work.
posted by Chichibio at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You'd think he killed your all's dog or somethin.'

Fanzen-hatred on Metafilter is a lot like New York Times hatred and "hipster" hatred--it's the narcissism of small differences. The likelihood of a thread LOLing at Franzen for hating Twitter's inanity is roughly equal to that of a thread LOLing at Twitter's inanity.
posted by yoink at 11:48 AM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Twitter is unspeakably irritating.

And yet he continues to whine...
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2012


As somebody who loves Wharton, I did not see the sexism in that piece. And yes, there was a lot of stuff about her appearance. But it is not gratuitous -- the article is saying something really interesting about Wharton's prospects for success in society and the fate of her heroines.

Sure, but it's SO much more fun to misrepresent the big nerd's essay and score cheap points against some literary establishment or other that so many vaguely resent!
posted by aught at 12:14 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone would read my summary and figure it for an accurate, unbiased one. But I don't have his article to hand to quote. There are many excellent, thoughtful responses if you google Franzen Wharton. If his article is not, itself, sexist (something I think debatable), in the context of some of his other remarks, I think it comes across as covert misogyny.

And, though I despised Freedom, I really liked The Corrections. I was inclined to think well of Freedom, before I read it.
posted by jeather at 12:25 PM on March 7, 2012


I don't think anyone would read my summary and figure it for an accurate, unbiased one.

I'm not sure what that has to do with the great chain of mockery.

I think a lot of people who have not even read the essay in question are making a lot of hay out of summaries like yours that have been all over the internets, and while it's partly because Franzen is a poor PR guy and blurts out dorkily mis-interpretable or even just plain unpopular opinions left and right, it's also in no small part because people think it's fun to make fun of someone they think is even nerdier than themselves. It's something like Lore Sjobergs' Geek Hierarchy in action. I mean, someone stole his big dork nerd glasses (I write as someone who once had glasses like that as a boy) and played ransom keep-away with them; it's like freakin' ninth grade writ large sometimes.
posted by aught at 12:34 PM on March 7, 2012


I was hoping The Corrections would be an insightful work on the injustice of the prison system, but alas.
posted by desjardins at 12:38 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


He also writes terrible books there is that part.
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Franzen needs to shut his trap. For a writer who touts himself as a crafter of "the social novel", he is remarkably detached from society. Everything that comes out of his mouth is whining, boring, predictable Ludditism of the sort that only a middle-aged hipster novelist would espouse. The "social issues" he supposedly wants to explore in his fiction takes a backseat to bird activism. Fuck birds. If he's so certain of society's inevitable collapse into techno-oblivion, why isn't Franzen writing about the Arab spring or war in central Africa or conditions in Chinese factories? His voice is that of the smug, overpaid American who sits poolside sipping a mimosa made with organic orange juice and casually announces to no one that he is going to start living off the grid. Haters gon' hate.
posted by deathpanels at 12:54 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


But it is not gratuitous -- the article is saying something really interesting about Wharton's prospects for success in society and the fate of her heroines.

Interesting, perhaps, but not accurate. In later life, Wharton overstated the degree to which she was seen as a dud debutante in her youth. The diaries and letters of her contemporaries are pretty clear that she was considered relatively attractive, if awkward. Her photographs reflect someone perfectly attractive by the standards of the day.

The interesting thing is why Wharton chose, later in her life, to depict herself as having been an ugly duckling type even though that wasn't accurate. Franzen's lack of information (I guess) caused him to take those statements at face value.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:55 PM on March 7, 2012


@deathpanels why aren't you writing about them

as for me i'm too busy killing birds

dogs are a kind of bird, right
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


#JonathanFranzenHates: "Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose… it’s hard to cite facts or create an argu

I only got as far as the first 140 characters.
posted by duffell at 1:20 PM on March 7, 2012


Jeff Noon knows how to write well on Twitter. Franzen, if you ask Jeff nicely, maybe he'll help you figure it out.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:22 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't read any Franzen books and don't have much of an opinion on him although comments like his about Twitter look silly, but

"The Corrections" even sounds like a book by a picky jerk.

prompted me to amuse myself by imagining with no basis in fact that given its name the book must be essentially 'FTFY, the novel'.
posted by Anything at 1:33 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do want to say, though, that a lot of MeFites called this guy out more than 10 years ago, and that's pretty awesome.

No opinion of Franzen (and I like Twitter despite its flaws), but it was certainly nice to see MC in fine form back in the day:
Mr.Franzen is an amateur. The book you write is the book you write, no matter who pans or praises it. Professional writers are glad of every single book they sell.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:00 AM on October 24, 2001 [+] [!]
posted by epersonae at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm always tempted to read something by Franzen (I had a first of Twenty-Seventh City once, but it sat on my shelves for so long that I finally sent it back to the used book store), because his books seem like the kind of thing I might like. But I haven't, yet. Of course, Claire Messud's Emperor's Children seemed like the kind of thing I might like, too, and half-way through I gave it up for Dullsville. Maybe I'll stick with Wharton.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2012


Teeny tiny Meta moment: photo at the top of the LA Review of Books article is by MeFi's Own (tm) pb.
posted by epersonae at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2012


Who says I'm not?
posted by deathpanels at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2012


, it's also in no small part because people think it's fun to make fun of someone they think is even nerdier than themselves.

Oh no, actually I think of myself as much nerdier than JF. I don't think you can really call a guy who gets this kind of awards and attention a social misfit...surely he gets more party invitations than he can handle? Gets offered all the lady company he wants? Etc. etc.

If he was just geeking out over something, it would cute or puzzling, but not annoying.

What most of the hatred comes from is the feeling that he's being pompous and condescending, a fatal stance to take when discussing something that is beloved but that he seems not to understand very well, ala Twitter (or maybe Oprah too). He seems a bit too worried about rubbing elbows in any way with those he seems to regard as the lower orders (such as Oprah book club fans) , and that raises hackles, you know.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'M NOT SURE YOU'RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK JONATHAN I READ A TWEET THE OTHER DAY THAT SAID '#FRANZEN IS A BALLSACK' AND EVERYONE I SHOWED IT TO WAS LIKE "WHOA THAT'S FUCKIN TRUE AS SHIT". THE TWEET WAS BY YOUR MOTHER.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:05 PM on March 7, 2012


Jonathan Franzen (author who hates twitter) X Margaret Atwood (author who uses twitter) = Bird-Watcher.
posted by ovvl at 4:20 PM on March 7, 2012


Yeah, Jonathon, sure. Look where bitching got George Valentin.
posted by Ardiril at 4:38 PM on March 7, 2012


Oh the hate, sigh. I thought that 'The Corrections' was over-rated. I liked 'Freedom'. I really like Franzen's New Yorker essays, including the ("conditions in Chinese factories?") one. His Edith Wharton essay made me more curious about her work, which I think should be a good thing.
posted by ovvl at 4:40 PM on March 7, 2012


I don't follow the twitters myself, perhaps mostly because I wish to be physically aware of the presence of the massive concrete truck hurtling down the street towards me as I cross the busy intersection, but I can accept the place for a short data burst format in compressed literature. The franzenhatertwitterfeed that I've glanced at doesn't really excite me, but Jeff Noon, well that sounds more interesting...

Speaking of, several years ago, long before the twitterness (depends on how you define long), someone was working on a condensed adaptation of Beowulf in very short segments...
posted by ovvl at 4:53 PM on March 7, 2012


@tumid dahlia

excellent but i wont believe you until you also threaten to beat him up in a park

man it occurs to me twitter is basically just animal noises
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:18 PM on March 7, 2012


I've never written anything meaningful and coherent in under 140 characters. Oh, oops.
posted by dickasso at 8:49 PM on March 7, 2012


> man it occurs to me twitter is basically just animal noises

This is kind of ironic coming from someone who never uses capital letters or punctuation.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 PM on March 7, 2012


I have zero interest in this dude. I find him dull and Literary and I don't give a crap what the man does because I start zoning out every time I hear his last name any more. But I do kinda agree with him on this. Though as far as I'm concerned, the danger of Twitter is losing your ability to write paragraphs, something that I've seen a lot of people mention (if I had a dollar for every writer who said, "I use to write an entry and now I just Tweet and...I'm done," I'd have me some cash) and something that deeply bothers me as someone who likes reading several paragraphs at a time from people who can have coherent thoughts beyond one sentence. Oh yeah, and also it's boring the shit out of me.

I think where this kind of has come up, though, is that All Writers Must Use Twitter Now. You know, that new law that got passed by all of society. YOU MUST USE TWITTER! YOU MUST LIKE IT! YOU MUST CONSTANTLY TWEET! IT IS TEH LAW!!1!!!! I swear to god, I hear that on oh, every website now. And Franzen is not having with that, and here comes the uproar. It's also pointed out that he's one of the few who can "get away with that," that almost every other writer HAS TO DO IT and HAS TO LIKE IT.

Now, as a Twitter-hater, I like that Roxane Gay is all "do what you want." However, I have the impression looking at what other people say that "do what you want" isn't really an option any more. Participating in all forms of social media, whether you like them or want to or not, is required for all writers now. At the very least, you have to reserve your name on everything and have a fan page. The culture doesn't seem to allow any more for someone who only wants to update one social media thing, or dare I say it, write paragraphs on their own fucking blog. Because if you're not on Facebook or Twitter, nobody's going to read that. And if you have to self-promote... And thus you're forced to do it, like it or not. And that's where my uh, resentment kicks in because I know damn well someone's gonna force me to start participating in mediums I hate. I will hold out for as long as I can, but it's gonna happen.

So cheers to Franzen for not doing it. I hope his publisher doesn't make him start tweeting within the next year, but...yeah, that will probably happen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:03 PM on March 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


activistory: Just as a clarification (because I think I under-explained his metaphor). Franzen mentioned enjoying cigarettes very much (I guess he is a former smoker) but the point he was making that the next cigarette and the NOW cigarette seem to mean so much more than any randomly-selected cigarette from the past (not the most recent memorable one).

Yeah, but I'm still waiting for WTH that has to do with social media.

I'd like to like Franzen. I don't like literary pile-ons as a rule and have had a feeling for a long time that people hate Franzen because it's fashionable to do so, but literally everything that I've ready by him (having only read his essays & other non-fiction pieces) just doesn't really make much sense. Even his euology for his long-time friend DFW was kind of lame -- I got more out of a short paragraph on McSweeney's that was probably written by one of the staff geeks.

I still think the DFW hate is mostly pretty undeserving and based on projective characterizations of what he was like. But I'm starting to think the #franzenfraude is legitimate. The man just doesn't seem to have anything interesting to say, at least not in short form non-fiction writing.
posted by lodurr at 6:04 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


gompa-in-character: "...We thought, would David Foster Wallace bother telling us what he thought of Twitter?"

Oh, my, yes. At great length. With footnotes. And when he was done, I'd understand at least one thing about it that I didn't, before.
posted by lodurr at 6:06 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think where this kind of has come up, though, is that All Writers Must Use Twitter Now. You know, that new law that got passed by all of society. YOU MUST USE TWITTER! YOU MUST LIKE IT! YOU MUST CONSTANTLY TWEET! IT IS TEH LAW!!1!!!! I swear to god, I hear that on oh, every website now. And Franzen is not having with that, and here comes the uproar. It's also pointed out that he's one of the few who can "get away with that," that almost every other writer HAS TO DO IT and HAS TO LIKE IT.

Isn't there a difference between not using a social media website and zealously broadcasting your hate for said social media website? I don't particularly care for Facebook - and have been berated for not using it, both personally and professionally - but it's not my job to go around advertising how "Facebook is killing personal interaction and represents the very death of our social fabric" or whatever (not my actual opinion, but you hear that a lot). Granted I don't have the podium that Franzen has, and perhaps that very podium induces him to pontificate on every passing phenomenon that he thinks is beneath him and his posse of Special Literary People.

As for the professional, self-promotional aspect of Twitter, I think that it's up to every artist to decide how social media works for them. If you have an amazing blog going that's chock full o' paragraphs and your particular audience is dialed into that, Twitter is just a bonus. Simply grabbing your namespace and using it for robo-updates that point back to your blog would be enough. That's about using tools that are relevant and available to you, not some kind of blood pact to tweet your meals every four hours. A lot of visual artists I know use Twitter for nothing more than advertising space for upcoming shows. Words are a writer's trade and so Twitter maybe makes more sense for them, but if it's not the way you interact best with your audience I don't see anything mandatory about its use. From the publishing perspective of unsigned and middlelist authors, it's simply seen as another form of "discoverability": as long as you're engaging somewhere (and as I said, that could just be a personal website) you're doing yourself a big favour.

emjaybee nails this whole pathetic controversy: What most of the hatred comes from is the feeling that he's being pompous and condescending, a fatal stance to take when discussing something that is beloved but that he seems not to understand very well, ala Twitter (or maybe Oprah too). He seems a bit too worried about rubbing elbows in any way with those he seems to regard as the lower orders (such as Oprah book club fans) , and that raises hackles, you know.
posted by Chichibio at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2012


Ah, twitter. See, I've just moved to a country far, far away from my friends, who are all still in the only place I have ever been happy. The only person I know here is my husband, and I am not very good at meeting people. Know what helps? Twitter. Precisely because tweeting does not require deep thought or hours of effort, my distant friends post random photos, irrelevant thoughts, and snippets of what is going on with them at that very moment. You know, the sort of things one would get to experience in person if one were with them. Call that the flipside of the twitter-hating: it's not Great Art, no. It's not meant to be. It's small connections. It makes me feel a little bit less alone.

It's not all small-talk and it's not all stupid. That's only one of the many applications of twitter I find useful, but it's certainly the one that means the most to me right now. The idea of it sounds, yes, annoying as *hell*, and I couldn't imagine what use it might have at first. But it can become something more than it sounds like it would.

Besides, who doesn't want to know what kind of sandwich their favourite musician just ordered?
posted by Because at 9:05 AM on March 8, 2012


it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’

La Disparition by Georges Perec is a better novel than you'll ever write

Yeah, that seemed like trolling to me too. Franzen is probably some sort of uber-troll who maintains multiple sockpuppets on Twitter and other community sites ... maybe even Metafilter! Is that you, Afroblanco?!

I've liked the books I've read by him, although I think that's partially because I'm from his hometown, and he's the first writer I've read who understands what it's like to be from a place like STL.

The Twenty-Seventh City is fantastic. It's like one of my favorite books ever. The rest ... ? Certainly readable, but by the time they're over, I don't give two shits about Chip or Patty. I read all but the last 50 pages of Strong Motion. I got bored.

Participating in all forms of social media, whether you like them or want to or not, is required for all writers now.

I'm not going to get into it, but I find this to be demonstrably false. You're talking about a (pretty small I think) subset of popular fiction writers?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2012


Foreword

Pale Fire, a poem in heroic couplets, of nine hundred ninety-nine lines, divided into four cantos, was composed by John Francis
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:45 AM on March 8, 2012


mrgrimm, i think it was meant as illustrative hyperbole, and taken that way, I think he's probably right: the woods are thick with self-defined experts who will tell you that you need to be tweeting or facebooking or (still) blogging or all of the above. I do not begrudge writers their self promotion efforts -- it's the only way the vast majority of them are ever going to have a career -- but they do need to be doing stuff they can be comfortable with or they'll come off seeming desperate and needy.

Franzen, though, can "get away with" not using it, or not using anything, because he's a young literary lion with few vices and many productive years ahead of him. He's got a marketing machine behind him; he can, marginally, be forgiven (though not excused) for not understanding that what he dismisses, is necessary to the livelihood of less fortunate writers.
posted by lodurr at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2012


Call that the flipside of the twitter-hating: it's not Great Art, no. It's not meant to be. It's small connections. It makes me feel a little bit less alone.

Perfectly said, Because. I'm one of those anxious, introverted, neurotic types. The universe and the people in it is frequently a terrifying place for me. But my Twitterverse is full of funny, thoughtful, amazing people sharing little pieces of their lives and humanity. It pulls me out of my head, teaches me things, and makes me laugh, and is a wonderful support network when things suck. It makes talking to people I care about who are far away effortless and rewarding. It's like having a cool, casual gathering of all my favorite people that I can pop in to and commune with whenever I want or need to, and that's pretty valuable for me.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2012


Franzen's tweets sans 'p'
posted by fryman at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2012


Yeah, that seemed like trolling to me too. Franzen is probably some sort of uber-troll who maintains multiple sockpuppets on Twitter and other community sites ... maybe even Metafilter! Is that you, Afroblanco?!

I refuse to do anything to dissuade you from the notion that I may actually be Jonathan Franzen.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:41 PM on March 8, 2012


it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’

La Disparition by Georges Perec is a better novel than you'll ever write

Yeah, that seemed like trolling to me too.


Doesn't this all makes perfect sense if you think about Franzen the hard working social realist novelist? Oulipoian formalism (he is certainly aware of writers like Perec) would likely seem a not serious game to someone who has spent decades thinking about the nuances of middle-class American society and how to represent it in a novel. I mean, you might not enjoy reading what JF came up with after all that pondering, or might think the slice o' society he writes about is worth your time, but you can't deny he has put his heart into this particular project for a really long time. (And, unfortunately, it seems like that sort of intense dedication to something can suck the humor and self-irony out of a writer, which I think is part of what's going on here as well.)

I studied creative writing years ago with a couple of poet-professors who as it turned out were very invested in a particular kind of poetry, clear in language and intention and conveying a narrative that contained the emotion-bearing metaphor and imagery. These folks had no use for anything avant-garde; even John Ashbery was considered un-serious and not worth their time, let alone the language poets. I wonder if the thing that makes the dynamic of their over-serious pronouncements different from Franzen's is that there weren't any cooler or trendier people stealing their glasses or mocking them on Twitter (which wouldn't be invented for many years yet anyhow).
posted by aught at 6:01 AM on March 9, 2012


I can respect someone for honing their craft and coming to a deep understanding of their project. What I have a hard time respecting is when they expect everyone else to be down with everything in the literary world conforming to their interpretation of their project. E.g., we're all supposed to sit up and listen when Franzen condemns Twitter as un-serious, or when he dismisses Edith Wharton with faint critique because aspects of her life outside of writing tweak his prejudices.
posted by lodurr at 6:24 AM on March 9, 2012


Also, Freedom in Wingdings is something I'd like to see (though I wouldn't pay for it).
posted by lodurr at 6:26 AM on March 9, 2012


Slate's Forrest Wickman cheekishly gets Jonathan Franzen to sign his kindle.
posted by aught at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2012


Slate's Forrest Wickman cheekishly gets Jonathan Franzen to sign his kindle.

But on the back cover instead of the title page, which is disappointing.
posted by Anything at 11:53 PM on March 15, 2012


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