Yeah, I read some books in 2010. I wish I had read more. These are my favorite 2010 releases I didn’t read.
I’ve written quite a few times about how lamentations and garment rending over the death of literature, the literary, publishing, and the written word have been premature. No one can dispute that the publishing industry is changing, that our culture is evolving, that we are facing certain challenges when it comes to encouraging the general public to read when, it would seem, people would rather watch television or stare at the Internet, or do anything but read. A difficult path, however, is not an impassable one.
Publishing is dying! Publishing is dying! Publishing is dying! Go ahead, say it three times. You’ll feel better but chanting those words will not nor cannot make them true.
We have a fetish for sifting through the proverbial ashes of publishing, the age of letters, a culture of intellect, as if all hope is lost, as if all we have left is the faint memory of a time when we sat in parlors on velvet lined couches and discussed literature while smoking tightly rolled French cigarettes. We sniff with disdain when confronted with mass market paperbacks or pablum like Jersey Shore and big budget films that inexplicably gross $50 million (ahem, Jackass 3D). These “cultural abominations” (which are, in fact, not abominations at all) are more than some of us can bear. We begrudge their existence as if they are taking the place, in our hearts and minds, of the next staggering work of literary genius. We blame these distractions for the demise of all things literary and intellectual as if we must choose between the charms of The Situation and Snooki or Johnny Knoxville and the charms of, say, Adam Levin or Jonathan Franzen or Marcy Dermansky or Grace Krilanovich. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again—I choose both.
I have qualms about contributing to the current hype around Franzen’s Freedom, the endless pop-noise which ironically is confronted in the book’s lakeside allegory; but I feel compelled to, having been so moved by the book, and apologize for attaching my name to this review.
Soon after a quick intro written in omniscient third person, the reader encounters a longish part (broken into 3 chapters, labeled as such) written by one of its characters Patty — and yet, this doesn’t feel like “meta-fiction,” or even the show off flourishes of an adroit author; it seems, while not essential, strangely relevant. The reader’s context, for those who know Franzen, is that he is weary of “difficult” fiction for its preoccupation with language and fragmented narrative/consciousness (he wrote a Harper’s article critical of William Gaddis’ infuriating/challenging techniques, yet strangely aligns himself with D.F. Wallace, also an instigator). So one asks, why the difficult-ish structure?
September 17th, 2010 / 2:34 pm
Bear with me. People have opinions about Jonathan Franzen. These opinions are rarely mild. There’s something about his personality and the way he negotiates his public image that invites discussion. I thought I had an opinion about Jonathan Franzen but the more I think about it, the more I realize he is not part of my literary vocabulary. If I never read another book of his again, my life would not come to an end. I loved The Corrections. That seems like a contradiction. I thought The Corrections was a great story, meandering and sweeping and engaging. But I’ve only read it once. I loved it but have never felt compelled to pick the book up again so maybe I don’t love The Corrections. Maybe I just really like it. I am excited to read Franzen’s forthcoming novel, Freedom, which I will be enjoying with The Rumpus Book Club. On Facebook, I think, I saw someone (Kyle Minor?) observe that people seem to enjoy taking down successful, ambitious people in reference to a lot of the recent commentary in various outlets about the VQR “situation.” I do not necessarily disagree. Successful, ambitious people are easy targets because we see them plainly and we have opinions about what they do and how we would do what they do and whether or not they deserve to those things they do and the privileges they enjoy because of how well or the public perception of how well they do the things they do.
September 2nd, 2010 / 3:19 pm
Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom will be the next Oprah Book Club selection. Between the two of them, nice will be made.
And remember: future events such as this will affect you in the future.
Say what you will about cookie-cutter culture, IKEA offers affordable furniture that doesn’t smell like the 1970’s. When enjoying your favorite book, it’s important to be seated properly — or at least in a way that compliments your reading experience. Here is a guide to what to read, and in what chairs.
This is a really expensive leather couch, ideal for books which reflect the opulent lifestyle, like American Psycho and The Great Gatsby. We learn in literature that money is not good, like all the bad people are rich and all the good people are poor. I don’t think this is a healthy attitude — now there’s some artistic nobility to being unemployed. I know I’m not your dad, but “get a job.” If I were the guy in American Psycho, I would not “freak out” (murder, crying into voicemail, etc.) and just keep my kick-ass job and eat good filet mignon at lunch and have sex with a lot of models.