Friday, August 13, 2010

Grating American Novelist

Time magazine has Jonathan Franzen on its cover, declaring him as an Great American Novelist. Notice how they side a troublesome tiff by not citing him as The Great American Novelist; the equivocation avoids a snarling morass of complaints from every contentious page boy with a BA in Literature who are compelled to snark regardless of the validity of a sweeping statement. Franzen is one among a few (or one among many, depending on how charitable you feel like being) Great American Novelists. The problem, of course, is that Time has decided to write about one novelist, one who made headlines when his novel The Corrections was an Oprah book club selection who then caused a ruckus when he remarked that he thought that , to paraphrase, that his novel was of a better grade than her regular picks. That made headlines, and Franzen walked back his caustic comments, doubtless at the insistence of publisher,publicists and agents , a lot that are assigned to sell books, low brow or lower. Franzen looked ridiculous and spineless, which confirmed my opinion of The Corrections,  foot dragging comedy , pockmarked with a surfeit of "literary" sentences that were with lyric lift or keen on insight.Franzen is a good, but not a great American novelist; he is , rather, John Cheever crossed with Robbe-Grillet, and reading him and his sufferings, real and fictional, is less inviting than having Charles Manson as your barber. The best I can say about Franzen is that he writes inordinately well for the little he actually has to say.



1 comment:

  1. RE: the barber comment -- "Best set of grilled ears I've ever seen..."

    ReplyDelete

Say something clear and smart.Lets have a discussion.