Jonathan Franzen’s Still a Jerk…and Other Literary News

Image via Gawker Media

Before I post my review of this month’s book club selection, I wanted to pass along some tidbits of news that I’ve bookmarked over the past weeks. There are a lot of interesting stories, so let’s hop right to it!

Movie Adaptations

  • After watching this trailer for “Victor Frankenstein,” I’m much less enthusiastic about the film. Looks like loads of special effects but very little substance. How unfortunate! Do yourself a favor and read Mary Shelley’s classic novel instead! (Source: ComingSoon.net)
  • Warner Bros. has purchased the rights to Dante’s Inferno, which will be written by Dwain Worrell as an epic love story through the nine circles of hell. I believe that there’s a tenth circle for horrible film adaptations (looking at you, “The Golden Compass!”), so fingers crossed this turns out well! (Source: Deadline)

Humorous Headlines

  • Was Shakespeare a gigantic stoner? Perhaps, says the South African researchers who found cannabis residue in 400-year-old tobacco pipes found in his Stratford-upon-Avon garden. (Source: The Conversation)
  • The hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trended on Twitter, with many famous authors contributing to the dialogue. My favorite tweet? S.E. Hinton of The Outsiders‘ response: “I thought you were dead.” #LOL (Source: Huffington Post)
  • A German artist with the hardest Tumblr domain to pronounce is getting her 15 minutes with her amusing Harry Potter comics in which Dumbledore has the perfect IDGAF attitude. (Source: BuzzFeed)

Et Cetera

  • A new fantasy tale will be published by the Tolkien estate in October: The Story of Kullervo. Based on Finnish poetry, it was one of the oldest stories written by the author in his college years starting in 1914. Hopefully, I’ll finish Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf before this is released! (Source: io9)
  • Speaking of Tolkien, George R. R. Martin has revealed that he wants his Game of Thrones series to end much like The Lord of the Rings did, as a “bittersweet victory.” The only victory here is whether this ending ever gets completed. What’s the holdup, Martin? Less interviews, more writing! (Source: Observer)
  • Finally, I still hate Jonathan Franzen. The latest reason was his flippant desire to adopt an Iraqi war orphan so he can better empathize with children. This was my favorite response from Rembert Browne:

Hey, Franzen? How about you take your “get off my lawn” attitude and just evacuate the planet? Kthxbai! (Source: Jezebel)

Any other literary news I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Why I HATE Jonathan Franzen

Good, because haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate!

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.

See what I mean?

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.

Because of course men can’t write about young women without replicating Lolita. It’s not creepy, you are.

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!

Please let this be sarcasm…

Books and Big Data: A Rant (in GIFs)

As marketing coordinator of a supercomputer company, it’s my job to manage all of our social networking sites, post relevant industry news, and occasionally write for our blog. It just so happens that an article which a colleague of mine shared the other day is also perfect for this blog!

Let the fun begin–it’s about to get super ranty up in here! And the bonus? I’ll be accompanying all of my emotions with the ever so addictive reaction GIFs! Huzzah!

On Financial Times, John Sunyer writes, “Big data meets the Bard,” so when you’ve got Shakespeare alongside the biggest buzzword in the tech world, I’ve got to admit I’m pretty interested.

But my excitement comes to a screeching halt after reading the first sentence:

Here’s some advice for bibliophiles with teetering piles of books and not enough hours in the day: don’t read them.

Oh, I get it. This is clearly a joke! Pull the reader in with a shocking statement, then transition to the real point? Apparently not, as it gets worse:

Instead, feed the books into a computer program and make graphs, maps and charts: it is the best way to get to grips with the vastness of literature.

This must just be some computer geeks thinking of ways to get out of their literature homework, right?

That, at least, is the recommendation of Franco Moretti, a 63-year-old professor of English at Stanford University and unofficial leader of a band of academics bringing a science-fiction thrill to the science of fiction.

An English professor from Stanford is suggesting we let computers do our reading for us?!

Alright, let’s say I’ll trust this guy for a second. What sort of amazing insights has he discovered by crunching words into numbers?

Moretti takes 7,000 British novels published between 1740 and 1850 and feeds them into a computer. The results reveal that books with long titles became drastically less common during this period.

I’m sorry, I don’t need to be the head honcho at the Ivy League of the West to know that insignificant tidbit of info. But if computers can only enlighten us with this drivel, that means there’s still lots of human reading to be done?

Ryan Heuser, 27-year-old associate director for research at the Literary Lab, tells me he can’t remember the last time he read a novel. “It was probably a few years ago and it was probably a sci-fi. But I don’t think I’ve read any fiction since I’ve been involved with the lab.”

So he works at the Literary Lab, but he hasn’t read a book in years?! Please tell me that novelists everywhere are writing angry letters to these so-called researchers!

“My impression is that Moretti is a passionate and astute scholar,” the novelist Jonathan Franzen tells me. “I doubt it is his aim to put novelists and novel readers out of business.”

Et tu, Franzen? But if that is his aim, I will cut him.

So what does Moretti and his buddies have to say for themselves after filling book lovers like me with rage?

Moretti is used to defending his work. “I’ve received so much shit for the quantitative stuff,” he admits.

As Jockers says: “Literary scholars have traditionally had to defend their worth against those working in the sciences. Yet now that literature is beginning to reek of science, there’s a knee-jerk reaction against it. We can’t win. There’s an endless battle between the disciplines. I’m still repeatedly accused of ‘taking the human out of humanities’.”

For once, they speak the truth: they are indeed “taking the human out of humanities.” They have managed to take literary criticism, one of the most debated, subjective, personal fields of study, and mangle it into a sterile, soulless profession. By trying to turn art into a science, they have lost the essence of the art itself.

And with that, I bid you good day, you book traitors!