Friday, December 27, 2013


Jonathan Franzen has nothing to say, yet needs to produce, and therefore has to grasp about in the shallows for tools more familiar to middle school brats than literary fancymen in order to churn out a trite revision of an artist when he should, instead, turn his lazy two-bit microscope upon his own tired-ass cultural hangups.

Or at least that's what I think.

Unfortunately, for I was having such an exasperation-free day, I came across his base attempt to summarize Edith Wharton for us in a 2012 issue of the New Yorker.  This is truly simple stuff.

He says that her privilege as a member of an aristocratic and well-monied family makes her difficult to like, and puts her at a "moral disadvantage".  A MORAL disadvantage?  This woman was born during the Civil War into a puritanical society in which women were treated as chattel, but Franzen feels oppressed by all the stuff that she could buy to decorate her house with.

Next, he throws her a bone, and says that the moral repugnance of her income is lessened by the fact that she was plain of appearance.  That's right, she's not hot.  He doesn't want to fuck the dour-faced novelist, standing in her turn of the century cabinet cards, with her corset and lapdogs.  The unspeakable horror of this non-babe status humanizes her, it ratchets her down slightly from "rich bitch" to "ugly bitch," making her entirely more acceptable and less threatening to him.  Would you ever publish something that revealed your stunted, insecure little parts like that?  This article has nothing to do with Edith Wharton.  It's about Franzen and his lack of emotional sophistication as a writer and a thinker.

JF, you need to sit down.  Regardless of one's opinions on Wharton, who by modern perceptions can be anything from a stuffed shirt to a pioneering hero, this article is pathetic.  It's lazy, written by a resentful Beavis incapable of formulating hypotheses worth sharing.

Anyway, she's taken to task far more often than is sensible or fair when you compare the tidal waves of forgiveness lavished on many male writers of comparable fame who do come with biographies that strongly temper their credibility.  Perhaps people are made insecure that she still seems to be everyone's boss.

Because who in the bloody goddamned fucking hell would read this:

“The young man was sincerely but placidly in love. He delighted in the radiant good looks of his betrothed, in her health, her horsemanship, her grace and quickness at games, and the shy interest in books and ideas that she was beginning to develop under his guidance. She was straightforward, loyal, and brave; she had a sense of humour (chiefly proved by her laughing at his jokes); and he suspected, in the depths of her innocently-gazing soul, a glow of feeling that it would be a joy to waken. But when he had gone the brief round of her he returned discouraged by the thought that all this frankness and innocence were only an artificial product. Untrained human nature was not frank and innocent; it was full of the twists and defences of an instinctive guile. And he felt himself oppressed by this creation of factitious purity, so cunningly manufactured by a conspiracy of mothers and aunts and grandmothers and long-dead ancestresses, because it was supposed to be what he wanted, what he had a right to, in order that he might exercise his lordly pleasure in smashing it like an image made of snow.”

and respond with "Yeah, but have you seen her pixxx?"

Edit: I decided to look into the fallout of Franzen's odious bullshit and found some far better responses to him than I am capable of at this time.

Victoria Patterson dispenses with him in a way that is diplomatic, authoritative, and interesting.  To be able to eviscerate someone in a kind way, a humane killing, must be an incredibly valuable skill to have.  I wouldn't know.  LA Review of Books "Not Pretty: On Edith Wharton and Jonathan Franzen"

Marina Budhos wonders why Franzen was unable to see the similarities between himself and Wharton.  Probably because one must be in heavy denial of one's own flaws in order to achieve such a level of schmuckery.

Not Sexy Enough

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