Because We All Love The Franzen

Mark Athitakis tries to figure out just how arrogant Franzen is being when he tell us that “At this point in my life, I’m mostly influenced by my own past writing.”

Relatedly, my problem with articles like this is that they just assume that Franzen, Wallace, et al. are important authors because . . . they are. Or at the most they’ll toss in the fact that they managed to pull home a little trophy or two as an indication of their importance to literary culture:

If he had to go, Franzen decided, he might as well stack the deck with friends, so he brought aboard Eugenides. Between them, Eugenides, Franzen, and Wallace now had a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a novel that launched a thousand fan sites and created a highbrow generational hero. The early years were over.

For all the huffing and puffing in this article about how the post-Pynchon crew were trying to solve the big questions about the novel’s place, relevance, etc, the piece is far more interested in celebrity gossip and glad-handing than telling us anything interesting about the books.

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It’s clear there’s a certain segment of readers (and the media that cover the writers themselves) who are much more interested in the gossip attached to them and their celebrity status than any serious (whatever that is) discussion of their works. I wonder how many people still buy books to impress others or (more sadly) do so because they feel they have to be hip and with it or they”ll be left behind. On the one hand I tire of the “no one reads anymore” tirades and the “death of the book” talk going around and then, on the other hand, being subjected to nonsense like this. I suppose it’s like TV, when you have all that time and space you have to fill it with something and maybe, just maybe there really isn’t that much to say about them in the end? What a concept…. I liked Franzen’s essays but his novels stink.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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