December 5th, 2011 / 4:55 pm

ToBS R1: hating on Jonathan Franzen vs. hating on Jonathan Safran Foer

[Matchup #16 in Tournament of Bookshit]

You meet a woman and wake up to her bookshelf:

• 30-50 copies of Elle

• 1984

• [something by Chuck Klosterman]

• Everything Is Illuminated

You say, “Okay,” to her while she sleeps.

You work in a cubicle for 10 hours. You drive home and open Facebook. She Facebook chats you a link. You click to a New York Times story on Jonathan Safran Foer. You think, “Played” and stare at his mole.

Your eyes move between excerpts of “Eating Animals” and a video ad for Transformers 2. You watch a Transformer destroy an aircraft carrier. You read, “…my writing teacher at Princeton was Joyce Carol Oates.” You close the Firefox tab and think “Dick” and “Maybe that’s unfair.”

You take “Everything Is Illuminated” and she says, “It’s really good, I promise.” You look at her and say, “Okay.” You open a beer and begin to read. You stop reading and pick up your dictionary. You try to look up “shtetl” and become distracted by other words. You finally read the entry for “shtetl” and sense you’re a terrible person. 
You remember a news story about black teenagers who went on a school trip to see Schindler’s List and screamed things like, “Damn! That’s cold!” whenever a Jew was shot.

You lean out of your car and picture Jonathan Safran Foer’s mole. You say, “Sausage, egg and cheese combo.” You picture his mole and think, “I know the factories are fucked up. What they do to the pigs. I know it.”

You read “Milk Comes From a Grieving Mother” on a bumper sticker. You reflexively make an argument for Fruit Loops. You realize the argument may require you to pronounce “anthropomorphism” at a local event featuring Jonathan Franzen/Lethem/Safran Foer. You imagine stuffing your mouth with Popeye’s and asking Jonathan Safran Foer long-winded, rhetorical questions. You picture a chicken engineered with no feathers, beak, feet or eyes, growing too fat for its cage.

You remember he wrote a book about children and 9/11 or something (you don’t remember). You imagine the book is about how 9/11 was carried out by 4-5 small children who were taught creative writing by Joyce Carol Oates at Princeton.

You put “Everything Is Illuminated” in a box of her things. You wait until she’s gone and leave the box on her doorstep.

Timothy Willis Sanders

– – –

WINNER:  hating on Jonathan Safran Foer

Tags: ,


  1. c2k

      You lean out of your car and picture Jonathan Safran Foer’s mole. You say, “Sausage, egg and cheese combo.”

  2. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      “You remember a news story about black teenagers who went on a school
      trip to see Schindler’s List and screamed things like, “Damn! That’s
      cold!” whenever a Jew was shot.” This reminds me of this story one my colleagues tells about an arts event she went to post-Katrina where a group of black youth from one of our local youth activism/community organizing groups was in the audience, and this performance artists did a piece about Katrina that involved her like shoving sand in her mouth and spitting it out and twirling around and around like a cyclone and spinning and throwing folding chairs and the like and one of the young people yelled, Bitch needs to calm down.

  3. Dole

      looking at pics of JSF to get “caught up”, I get these real intense buzzing synesthesias, want to close the window but cannot.  JSF is looking at me right through the browser window, he is so hungry for my face

  4. M. Kitchell

      this is amazing

  5. Adam Robinson

      TWS does it again.

  6. stephen


  7. Concern Troll

      I was hoping for some Franzen-hating.

  8. Lilzed

      this article is hilarious in a low-intensity way. I agree w. concern troll about where is the franzen hating? but maybe that is so obv. to you that it is not even worth mentioning, just like any of the cohesive criticisms that bubble just out of reach in this story.

      why is it that hatred generates such good writing? just something on my mind this week.

  9. crispin best

      this is fucking amazing

  10. c2k

      The photo is a very nice touch

  11. c2k

      Maybe you could have photoshopped a mole on one of them.

      That would be my only criticism.

  12. c2k

      The guy on the left.

      Okay, I’m done.

  13. Ben Segal

      you meet a girl. she went to amherst and keeps a copy of freedom on the coffee table. you kind of really wish you were drunk already. she lives in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood and you say “i guess you are kind of like a character in one of franzen’s novels.” the girl, who is named elizabeth or something, looks at you like she isn’t sure if she’s supposed to graciously take that as a compliment. she gives you some wine. she has a bunch of new yorker magazines stacked up in the bathroom. you remember the time you read that excerpt from ‘freedom’ in the new yorker and thought it was a short story and then said to yourself ‘boy, it’s a good thing he’s a novelist and not a short story writer’ and then realized that actually this is just what his prose looks like. when you’re leaving the girl apologizes for ‘living all the way in the ghetto’

  14. deadgod

      She sees Grove Press for Dummies in your hoodie cross-tummy pocket before you see her black bra-strap, so she takes you to her wingman-but-pays-for-drinks pad and you get the second-string business.

      Gladdened that Foer shook you loose without another restraining-order threat, she reshelves the book on the wet-spot side of the futon.

  15. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      These are both well written and all, but it does raise the question for me of why we need to use these cipher women as proxies for hating on male authors.

  16. deadgod

      It reminds me of noticing the old guy in a supermarket in Harlem loudly claiming to no one that ‘Thomas Jefferson was right about shipping the blacks back to Africa’.

  17. deadgod

      –and the Little-Ivy envy.  Those darn safety schools!

  18. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      deadgod is totally a new yorker.

  19. barry

      this is the only one i got wrong that i feel good about….

  20. Leapsloth14

      Going all Lorrie Moore and shit.

  21. Ben Segal

      well, for me i was just copying the form of the original//trying to pretend the original was written about the other jonathan. and to deadgod- not little-ivy envy at all, just a distaste for amherst college after having lived in w. mass. 

  22. Horaceblister

      still think the sixth borough is a damn good story. suck my metaballs. 

  23. Diana
  24. Lukas Novak

      I had to google a picture of JSF to get a bearing on the mole situation. It made me sad to know that I have several more moles on my own face, all of which are more distracting that his little nub. feelsbadman.jpg

  25. BmrsMstD

      Ladies could weigh in… which is worse to find on a guy’s shelf, Chuck Palaniuhk (like more than just one) or Hunter S. Thompson? The most grotesque males I’ve met have had nothing but Hemingway, surely an ominous sign

  26. BmrsMstD

      No one NO ONE is envious of Amherst (except Swarthies)

  27. lorian long

      hemingway usually means the bro is full of himself and terrible in bed. i think the worst is to find maybe 5 or 6 books sandwiched between a ‘shitload’ of dvds.

  28. marshall

      i am a bro you know

      the way people shit talk white people living in big cities i wonder who any of yall are

  29. lorian long

      we’re talking like, multiple copies, right? if i had to break it down:
      tom robbins (harmless, maybe a fag)
      david sedaris (harmless, terrible in bed, maybe a fag)
      chuck palahasldkfnuk (dick, terrible in bed)
      stephen king (seems like this could go either way, obnoxious, or sweet nerd)
      philip roth (ego, boring, but prolly gives good head)
      ayn rand (rapist)
      richard ford (boring, vanilla)
      bukowski (ego, boring, comes too quickly, won’t go down on you)
      auster (see above)
      salinger (see above)

  30. BmrsMstD

      What if all he has was Isaac Babel?

  31. deadgod


  32. deadgod

      What’s the particular beef with Amherstians?  Lots of spoiled kids, many of whom are quite smart, many of whom might survive their privilege reasonably–that’s a lot of 20-year-olds in a lot of places in America, no?  (I never lived in western Mass., so I ask.)

  33. Amber

      Fuck yeah! JSF hate wins! The true winner, though, is this sentence: “You imagine the book is about how 9/11 was carried out by 4-5 small children who were taught creative writing by Joyce Carol Oates at Princeton.”

  34. Amber

      Stuff white people living in big cities like: hating on on other white people living in big cities.

  35. Jonathan Safran Foer

      JSF here. I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else – gets mad quim, bro.  Eat my dust, smegma-dripping goyim

  36. BmrsMstD


  37. deadgod

      Not sure what Diana is calling ‘romantically racist’:  to call someone a “new yorker”, or to be reminded by black kids jeering at the Shoah of black kids mocking performance art.

      Or is the link an advertisement–out and proud??

  38. Jonathan Safran Foer

      Joyce Carol is a dark bitch. 

  39. Jonathan Safran Foer


  40. Jonathan Franzen

      “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.” 

  41. Jonathan Safran Foer

      “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.” –



  43. Leapsloth14

      While you wrote that comment she wrote her 112th novel and it was OK. No one read it but it was good.

  44. Jonathan Safran Foer

      “I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I
      like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories
      that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough,
      the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the
      bringing together, the end of missing someone.”

  45. Don

      You are the best thing on the internet.

  46. Leapsloth14

      There’s a great example of OK right there. Add strawberry powdered milk and you might have something a child would hesitantly drink.

  47. Don

      This particular seems to be mostly about hating women.

  48. Sylvia P.

      You do not do, you do not do
      Any more, black shoe
      In which I have lived like a foot
      For thirty years, poor and white,
      Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

  49. William VanDenBerg

      Certain members of the animal kingdom make that noise before consuming their mates.

      BARD MATRICULANT!!! (chew feast chew)

  50. William VanDenBerg

      Chuck palahasldkfnuk is the new accepted spelling.

  51. surprise

      What here isn’t? What anywhere isn’t?

  52. lorian long


  53. lorian long

      because some women have shit taste in books?

  54. Jason Jimenez

      this is genius here

  55. Khujeci Tomai

      Because this seems to be all about white boys using literature as pickup tool and/or as commitment phobia alibi.

      But that sounded a bit humorless, so ok it’s because talking smack about a writer by using the metaphor of a “deal breaker” in a relationship is funny.

      I recently SMSed a friend saying the person I was hanging out with just professed to being a John Galt fan. She SMS’ed back in 10 seconds, “That’s a dealbreaker. Leave. Now.”

  56. Khujeci Tomai

      John Fowles (axe murderer, run away)
      Gunter Grass (will talk you into climaxing)
      Christopher Hitchens (will ignore you & masturbate all night) 
      Salman Rushdie (will talk about the last supermodels he dated)
      Roberto Bolano (regardless of how good he is, he also has bedbugs)

  57. deadgod


  58. Joseph Marcure

      This is the best thing I’ve read on htmlgiant all year, if not since this place “happened”.

  59. Joseph Marcure

      I was in fact replying to Tim Jones-Yelvingtong’s insightful point that deserves response from the above commenters and post author.

  60. M. Kitchell

      best comment

  61. Ken Baumann


  62. Craig Ronald Marchinkoski

      fucking this is amazing
      (see above)

  63. BmrsMstDe


  64. Timothy Willis Sanders

      i’m sorry joseph, i’m not sure i understand the point well enough to respond. tim, if you want to elaborate, i will try to respond on my lunch break. otherwise, thanks everyone for reading. 

  65. Timothy Willis Sanders

      sorry lukas. if it’s any consolation, i think moles can make people look distinguished. im thinking here of obama and morgan freeman. that’s all i got bro. 

  66. Timothy Willis Sanders


  67. Timothy Willis Sanders

      lol x2

  68. Timothy Willis Sanders

      lol re Hitchens (ignores and masturbates ‘all night’?…lol)

  69. Timothy Willis Sanders

      damn. just replied to jonathan safran foer…

  70. Timothy Willis Sanders

      can you expand on this point?

  71. Timothy Willis Sanders

      the comment box says “replying to jonathan safran foer”

  72. Jonathan Safran Foer


  73. BoomersMustDie

      Colby Grad

  74. c2k

      Grolsch bottle tops in yer trainers.

  75. Lilzed

      I think the question was, why can’t hatred for male authors from other male authors be spelled out directly without involving a proxy person to hate as in

      But if you don’t see this as a trend, maybe you wouldn’t have much to say

  76. Jonathan Safran Foer


  77. John Sakkis


  78. c2k

      But Grolsch bottle tops in yer trainers would be recycling, in a sense.

  79. Jonathan Safran Foer

      “I’m sorry for my inability to let unimportant things go, for my inability to hold on to the important things.”

  80. Jonathan Safran Foer

      Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.

  81. c2k

      You are forgiven, my son. Now go have yourself a Nathan’s Famous – extra meat.

  82. Jonathan Safran Foer

      You would have me eat DOG? Barker or gentlemooer it’s all the same color, you meeting eating jagoff

  83. c2k

      That’s just plain wrong. Your kids could be reading this.

  84. Guestagain

      honest white boys use rock n roll as pickup tool and/or as commitment phobia alibi

  85. Jonathan Safran Foer

      True. They could read at 6 months

  86. Timothy Willis Sanders

      i’m sorry, but you’re right, i didn’t notice this as a trend

  87. Anonymous

  88. Jonathan Safran Foer

      I used to tuck her … but now she tucked my feelings into the woven arteries of my veins

  89. Anonymous

  90. Anonymous

  91. Anonymous

  92. c2k

      Oh. I assumed so. But that’s a little late in a family of geniuses. I’m not criticising you or your kids. Just an observation. I am a fan of your work.

  93. Alexander J. Allison

      well done timothy. very much enjoyed this. the first line is more than perfect.

  94. Anonymous

  95. Anonymous

  96. Yes, I'm black

      What Diana is calling Romantic Racism is the nostalgia with which both the original poster and Tim Jones recall their amusing stories of watching black youths act all “black” and “youth-y.” Sort of the same way a white woman recalls her intimate moments with her black maid, how the maid was so “there” for her when her own 1950’s-era white mother was emotionally absent, or some other shit like that. Get it?

  97. Lia E

      The link is to a Wiki article on Romantic Racism. Diana was kind enough to post a link explaining the term so that you might be able to figure out what, in fact, was romantically racist about this post on your own. 

  98. Anonymous

  99. Anonymous

  100. Anonymous

  101. Jonathan Safran Foer
  102. Caleb Powell


      Well done.