A couple years ago, I published one of my most popular blog posts–my rant on why I can’t stand Nicholas Sparks. And while my loathing for him is still going strong, I want to spend today extending my annoyance to another author dominating the industry…Jonathan Franzen.
Well-known for his novels The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010), I’m aware that writing this rant could come back to bite me in the ass in the future. Franzen, after all, has been labeled a “Great American Novelist” by TIME magazine. His net worth is estimated into the tens of millions. He’s got a *lot* of opinions, and he certainly isn’t afraid to share them with the world.
Too bad, he’s full of crap.
Need proof? Behold, my reasons why I HATE Jonathan Franzen:
1. He’s a book snob. I appreciate Franzen’s respect for journalists and the print media they produce, but that doesn’t mean that online communication is evil. You know that you’re out of touch with the world when you call the Internet a “bloodsucking monster squid.” Sure, I prefer paperbacks to ebooks, but without social media networks like Twitter and Goodreads, I never would have stumbled upon new books and authors–not to mention have virtually met all of my wonderful followers! That world of bloggers you despise so much is the same one praising your own work. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Franzen.
2. He’s a sexist book snob. Case in point: his long-standing feud with Jennifer Weiner, whom he believes is “freeloading on the legitimate problem of gender bias in the canon.” You know, the legitimate problem from which he gains a massive amount of privilege. The same gender bias that consistently places him at the top of the NYT bestseller list while hordes of female authors get stuck with cutesy covers because they’re deemed ‘commercial’ rather than ‘literary’ writers.
If I ever felt guilty for hating on Franzen without actually reading a single word of his, I just refer to the fact that he’s committed the exact same sin:
I have yet to hear one person say, “Oh, she’s really good, you should read her.” And basically if two people say that about a book I’ll read it. I know no one, male or female, who says, “You’ve got to read Jennifer Weiner.”
Maybe if Franzen spent more time supporting female authors and less time huffing and puffing over why gender discrimination is, like, just not his problem, man, then he wouldn’t come off as such a jerk.
3. He definitely doesn’t put the “sex” in sexist. I find it ironic that Franzen believes he’s better than all those romance novelists like Weiner, and yet he can’t write a love scene to save his life. Here’s an example, courtesy of fellow Franzen hater Madeleine Davies from Jezebel:
Click on the link above to read more tidbits, but you’ve been warned! I want to bleach my eyes after laying them on that horror. Dare I say, Franzen makes E.L. James look good!
4. Did I mention he’s sexist? One of my favorite books of all time is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (an award, I should add, that Franzen has yet to win).
You would think that Franzen could recognize such genius, but alas, you’d be wrong. What did Franzen decide to write in The New Yorker on Wharton’s 150th birthday?
Edith Newbold Jones did have one potentially redeeming disadvantage: she wasn’t pretty.
Nothing says literary appreciation like calling a writer ugly and sexually ignorant! But wait! There’s more!
Lacking good looks and the feminine charms that might have accompanied them, she eventually became, in every sense but one, the man of her house.
Ah yes, the only reason why Wharton became a renowned writer is because she was practically a man! Silly me to forget that pretty women are worthless when it comes to putting pen to paper.
Instead of publishing a kind commemoration, Franzen managed to objectify a woman who has been dead for almost 80 years. Classy!
So yes, just like with Nicholas Sparks, I haven’t read Jonathan Franzen–and after witnessing this misogyny, I don’t intend to. I’m sure that there are plenty of straight, white, male authors who reach great levels of success without demeaning women or other marginalized populations, but these men clearly do not qualify.
What are your thoughts? Is Franzen one of your fav writers or just a literary frat bro? Were you aware of his less-than-admirable opinions, and does it change how you see him? Share your love or hate in the comments!