Friday, September 3, 2010

Twitter replaces literary criticism


Jonathan Franzen's problem is that he's been typecast as Jonathan Franzen, Serious Novelist, and the burden of having that media-installed millstone around your neck is that discussions about you generally cease to be about your actual work , nor even about your reputation. Rather, what people will talk about is your celebrity and whether you're worthy of possessing this dubious gift. Jodi Picoult has a real beef about the media's slant toward white male writers, but her response to the focus on Franzen is sour grapes --she , already a famous, best selling novelist-- is essentially complaining that  she is not famous enough.

One wonders how egregious Picoult considers the over-estimation of Franzen to be. In the not so distant past, critics and novelists between projects would vent their gripes against their fellow fabulators in long, detailed essays and cranky squibs--Mailer, Vidal, Dale Peck , et al, named names, staked their territory, and at least provided readers with a series of elegant resentments they could argue with.

 Picoult hadn't the time for a major essay , nor the patience  to write a half way literate blog post. Instead, she succumbed to instant gratification and communicated her resentment on Twitter. While she did create a buzz, her argument exists as a bumper sticker , not an indictment. It's a midcult expression of a very real inequity. She comes off as someone who is not so much against Franzen and male writers as much as books where the prose is a step above the diffuse, swooning  romances she prefers to construct.