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Franzen: No one has anything intelligent to say about my Novels.

According to The Harvard Crimson, James Wood treated Jonathan Franzen with nothing but fluffy good kindness in an on stage interview last night, allowing this:

"The reviews tend to be repetitive and tend to be so filled with error that they’re kind of unbearable to read, even the nice ones," Franzen said. "The most upsetting thing nowadays is the feeling that there’s no one out there responding intelligently to the text," he said. "So few people are actually doing serious criticism. It’s so snarky, it’s so ad hominum, it’s so black and white."

and this:

"The stupidest person in New York City is currently the lead reviewer of fiction for the New York Times," he added, referring to controversial, Pulitzer-Prize winning reviewer Michiko Kakutani."

"When you have the opportunity to do a documentary-to do Frontline, to do The Wire-and reach a much larger audience much quicker and you actually gain, it’s more vivid, you can go right to the body on the street in Baghdad and can have that up on the screen," Franzen said. "I’m engaged in a lifelong struggle to produce texts that have that kind of interior depth that is not immediately apparent, that repay some kind of careful analysis without losing people who just want to follow along on the surface."

Now, I wasn’t there, so perhaps the discussion did go beneath the surface. I just hope that Wood didn’t bite his tongue and that he challenged Franzen as he did in his Irresponsible Self essay. In it Wood calls Franzen’s aesthetic solution to the social novel — the refuge of  sentences – the "right"one, or at least one of them, "but his reasons for arriving at it are the wrong ones." Putting this rather haughty judgment to Franzen on stage would I suspect have generated something of value, as opposed to this tired, over generalized  bullshit that ‘intelligent responses to the text are lacking,’ and leading reviewers are stupid.

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3 Responses to “Franzen: No one has anything intelligent to say about my Novels.”

  1. Amateur Reader Says:

    Doesn’t Franzen live in NYC? Making Kakutani second stupidest?
    I don’t know if I’m more impressed by Franzen’s humility, or his generosity (see where he "thought about" using his own money establishing a literary prize).

  2. Steven Augustine Says:

    Though Kookoo *is* a philistine. The spitty zest of her pandering to the anti-Art instincts of her audience is pretty sickening; she’d be much better suited to reviewing television (*on* television).
    The tragedy of Franzen is that he was *almost* a great writer, but he veered towards being a best-seller instead… and now wants to complain about it.

  3. J.D. Says:

    I am in a lifelong struggle to avoid buying novels written by pompous windbags who are overly obsessed with how they’ll fair in perpetuity.  

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