Oct 262010

Here’s a perspective on Jonathan Franzen that seems fresh to me.


Like everyone else, I have been eagerly awaiting Jonathan Franzen’s new novel. “Freedom” has been nine years in the making. Franzen just gave his first reading in New York City; he appeared on public radio, and his photograph made the cover of Time magazine with the caption “Great American Novelist.” Sam Tanenhaus in his New York Times review calls the book a masterpiece. He compares Franzen to Thomas Mann. Chick-lit author Jennifer Weiner, irritated by this ample publicity and the lack of such for many talented female writers, complained to her 15,000 twitter followers and termed the literary hashtag Franzenfreude.

Was she driven by what Germans call Futterneid (envy)?

via Absinthe Minded: Franzenfreude.

And see this from Pankaj Mishra in the UK Guardian Books which seems more superficial and conventional in its thinking.

A strange hysteria, originating in New York, swept across America last month. I am not referring to the anti-Muslim campaign led by extreme rightwingers and abetted by an unprincipled media. No: this particular mania was marked by loudly competing eulogies rather than cacophonous malignity. The “hallowed ground” was American literature, and the monument quickly raised on it by broad and vigorous consensus was to Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom.

via Pankaj Mishra on American literature | Books | The Guardian.

  7 Responses to “Absinthe Minded: Franzenfreude”

  1. Sheeesh. Has anybody read this thing?

    Where’d Franzen get his MFA anyway?

  2. I thought “Freedom” was a brilliant piece of work — not quite as good as “The Corrections”, but still remarkable — and unlike many serious novels, seriously funny. The autobiographical sections — written in the third person — struck me as a unique way to gain some distance from the events described. Patty’s occasional comment on her own behavior “…an action which in retrospect, the autobiographer regrets” were both touching and amusing. The book is big, full of characters and narrative voices and diatribes, conflicts and conundrums, feral cats and contractors, neighborhood gossip, tragedy and true love, however compromised.
    The women who complain that they don’t get the attention Franzen does have to face the cold reality of the reason why: he writes better than they do. He’s more ambitious than they are, and he succeeds. They eat the windfall fruit rotting in the weeds; he’s up in the high branches, dangling from one hand, plucking the perfect Cortland apple … and, generous daredevil acrobat that he is, throwing it down to us. I’m too busy eating to feel jealous.

    • I enjoyed “Freedom,” and read it avidly over two days. (I don’t think Franzen is a graduate school writer, but I could be mistaken.)

      I agree with Mr. Axelrod that “Freedom” is a brilliant novel, and I think that Franzen is one of America’s finest living writers. He reminds me a bit of John Irving at his best (and he was not always at his best; he has lately been at his worst.)

      Jealousy is a component of success, and there’s not much that can be done about it except to ignore it and do your work.

  3. I fight jealousy by recalling Oscar Wilde’s aphorism: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

  4. Willikers, all the tools are jumping out of the box at once! What’s a girl do do? I suppose she ought stay in her place.

    Keine freude die dame ist richtig.

  5. Reading reviews is entertaining and says something about the state of reviewing and literary discussions in general. You can find a full list here (scroll down):


    Including our good friend B. R. Myers at The Atlantic:


    (I do not like B. R. Myers.)

  6. Enjoyed both reviews. Why down on B.R.? Love his snarkiness here and I think he makes some good points.

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