Matthew Specktor says we’re sick of Jonathan Franzen.
Joshua Hardina says we’re just afraid of what he’s telling us.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 2010. 576 pp.
By now we are tired of thinking about Freedom. The book blew past us in a rush, we either read it or we didn’t, but whether or not we did—I read it the week it came out, entirely to clear this exhaustion—we’re tired of it. The weird satisfaction (was it “vindication”?) we felt after Jonathan Franzen’s novel was blanked on the Awards Circuit last month seems largely detached from the book itself, which never stood a chance. If celebrity is just the suspension of contempt (and it is), then the trail of hosannas that actually preceded the book into stores screwed it from the beginning. Many of us were tired of it before it was even for sale (some, probably, could feel the headache coming on long before it was written), which says everything about the culture of publishing and almost nothing about the book itself.
I don’t see what this has to do with anything. I remember people being really, really excited about it coming out, actually. Yes, there was a lot of hype, certainly more than Franzen deserved, but that’s just PR. I mean, should he have been on Time? Hell no. How about David Mitchell or Jonathan Safran Foer or, hey, Jennifer Egan or something? I haven’t read any Franzen yet, and I will eventually pick him up so I can form my own opinions about his writing, but I already feel like he wont be my cup of literary tea. That being said, if everyone is exhausted by the book, then maybe it IS the book. Literature shouldn’t be stressful or induce headaches for chrissakes.