Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Brief Post Regarding Franzen's New Book

For any and all Jonathan Franzen fans out there, I got two links for you regarding his new memoir which came out today called The Discomfort Zone. The first is his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross. The second is the Michiko Kakutani takedown of said memoir in the New York Times. (You may have to sign up with the Times to read the review, but it's free if you're interested.) It's fascinating what Franzen's done with this memoir. He seems almost determined to make people dislike him by relating stories from his youth (and even from today), designed to inspire feelings of ridicule at best and outright antipathy at worst. Kakutani thinks he's being intolerably self-absorbed in this memoir but from what I've read of it he's just being masochistically honest. I'm excited to read it.


Nathan said...

now...I'm sure this doesn't apply 100% of the time but a writer writing his own memoir always seems a bit silly to me. Now, if it were Jack London or Lord Byron or someone who actually went out and DID things to write about...well, that could be interesting. But 99% of writers don't do shit but write. Seems to me that would make for some pretty boring storytelling. "January 15th, 1987. I got down 14 pages that day in the book I was working on. It was awesome stuff and contributed two, what turned into an awesome book."

Most people don't live interesting enough lives to merit a memoir, ESPECIALLY writers.

Of course, it's entirely possible that I feel this way because I dislike Franzen. However, this does give me another reason to dislike him even more.

Nathan said...

um...that should have been "contributed to" not "contributed two"

Nathan said...

I just read the review. Wow...what a cocksucker that guy seems to be.

harwell said...

Please note that when Hinesy says "I dislike Franzen," what he really means is "I'd like to see Franzen prison-raped."

Dude HATES him some freaking Franzen. HATES him.

Of course memoirs are self-absorbed, but it's the storytelling as much as the story that makes them interesting. That's true for writers or athletes or Presidents. Saying "I killed Franzen" isn't quite as interesting as describing how you killed Franzen. Even though the subject matter is inherently intriguing, it still requires skill to make it a worthwhile read, ya know? Any life can merit a memoir if it's told in a compelling way. It's like saying a movie about regular folks can't be as interesting as the Lord of the Rings movies. You're probably right to assume that most writers have fairly mundane lives, but that doesn't mean there's not a story there. If not, one can always take the James Frey route and embellish the boring parts. I'm sure no one would ever find out the truth. No way that could happen...

Really, I wish you would just come right out and admit how much you secretly loved THE CORRECTIONS and are totally jealous of Franzen, Hines. Would save us all a lot of eye rolling whenever you bring him up.

Nathan said...

I'm jealous of Steinbeck. Franzen...not so much.

But you're absolutely write that the telling is as important as the tale. I just hates me some Franzen. I'm not saying he's not talented...but everytime I've heard him (or read him) speak...he's like a modern day Capote without the quirks that made ol' T.C. tolerable as a human.

As Michiko Kakutani writes in her little interview:

"And he describes the judgmental outlook that he and his wife shared for many years: “Deploring other people — their lack of perfection — had always been our sport.”

I can totally see that being a favorite topic of his.

Franzen is Joe Corey with talent.
Franzen is what Jeff Bens would be if he were successful.
Franzen is a tool. Roll your eyes all day but the guy is a prick and relishes it.

Now that Chabon. There's a guy I like AND am jealous of.