On Monday, May 11, an elite few began receiving advanced copies of Purity, the latest release from Great Male American Author, Jonathan Franzen. “Oh pussycat,” the novel begins. “Oh god, no,” the public begs.
Few authors carry weight with the literary establishment like Franzen while also maintaining such a large posse of fanboys within the public at large. So imagine my surprise when, last summer, I finally picked up Freedom—winner of the John Gardner Fiction Award, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the LA Times Book Prize, Obama-approved selection for Oprah’s Book Club—only to discover that it’s not very good.
Freedom, if you were lucky enough to miss it, is the 576-page story of a wife who cheats on her husband with her husband’s best friend. The husband then gets into birds, and Franzen spends the rest of the book complaining about how iPods are destroying society and hey, isn’t being comfortably middle-class the real American tragedy? No? Well, if you want his characters to seem selfish and interesting rather than selfish and boring, you’d better pretend that it is.
But being dull—a perception that, admittedly, is totally subjective—isn’t the true crime of Franzen’s craft. It’s his stilted, erotic fan fiction-esque descriptions of sex, descriptions that imply that he doesn’t really understand how sex works or what feels good, particularly for women—as well as his continued deployment of sexual metaphors that should condemn him to life in Literary Sex Jail.
While slogging through Freedom, I noted many of the worst quotes about sex and set them aside to use in an article for a rainy day—or, the inevitable day when Franzen would find himself back in the news with a new book. In order to stand a chance at preventing his sex terrorism in the future, the world must remember the crimes of Franzen’s past.
All of these quotes are from Freedom. All of them are real. All of them are written by a man—Jonathan Franzen—who feasibly has had sex with a woman IRL before.
The following two quotes describe the phone sex conversation and fantasy life of two teenagers.
It’s encouraging, I suppose, that Franzen, while not so great at writing partner sex scenes, is the literary world’s foremost expert at masturbating words onto paper.
Images via the AP and Getty.
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