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."
"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.