Hold onto your little clitorises of discernment, you stuffy literary cunts: the bad boy of books (and bird watching!) Jonathan Franzen is BACK, having begun his press tour for his new novel Purity, and GUESS WHAT? He doesn’t give a FUCK what you think about him. (But please buy his new book! Pleeeeeeease!)
In a new interview with The Guardian’s Alison Flood, Franzen drops all kinds of truth bombs that you—a big dumb square—probably won’t be able to handle. Like, did you know that he dislikes young people so much that he and his partner considered adopting an Iraqi orphan so that he could better empathize and understand the world’s youth?
“Oh, it was insane, the idea that Kathy and I were going to adopt an Iraqi war orphan. The whole idea lasted maybe six weeks,” he told Flood. “One of the things that had put me in mind of adoption was a sense of alienation from the younger generation. They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry. And they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me.”
Eventually, his editor suggested that, rather than adopt a child as a sociology project, he should instead sit down and, you know, actually try to talk with some college grads. The discussions, he says, “cured me of my anger at young people.” Lucky us!
It’s interesting, anyway, that someone with such a vocal distaste for the youth seems to take such smug pride in acting like a petulant teen regardless. Take his response to his feminist critics, for example, which is nothing short of surly:
“I’m not a sexist. I am not somebody who goes around saying men are superior, or that male writers are superior. In fact, I really go out of my way to champion women’s work that I think is not getting enough attention. None of that is ever enough. Because a villain is needed. It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.”
Speaking about a character in his forthcoming novel, Purity – a fanatical feminist who, among other things, forces her husband to urinate sitting down on the toilet to atone for his maleness – Franzen predicted that she would enrage his critics; in fact, she already has. “After all these years we finally get to read a man’s take on feminism,” tweeted the Canadian writer Anne Thériault. “Bless you and the hard work you do, Mr Franzen.”
“There’s a certain degree of glee in putting that stuff in the book,” Franzen told the Guardian. “Because I know that if you are hostile, you will find ammunition. I wrote this deliriously praising celebration of Edith Wharton. People managed to find a way to make it sound like I was hating on Edith Wharton. So why not just let it all rip and [say]: have fun with that, guys.”
First of all, did you know that you could make men sit on toilet seats to atone for their maleness?! Amazing! It’s true what they say about Franzen: his women are complex.
Secondly, we seem to have reached the exhausting point where Franzen and his critics (of which I am one) are both existing in the smug state in which each group assumes that they’re smarter than the other. Franzen insists that he’s playing a joke on us (his entire Guardian article can be summed up with “have fun with that, guys!) and we insist—I still insist—that Franzen is the joke.
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