At City Lit in Logan Square, at 6:30pm. Curt will be reading from his new book, The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers, which just came out through Melville House.
I did my Master’s degree with Curt at Illinois State University, and he’s one of the smartest and best writers I know. (He’s one of the two profs who first got me reading Viktor Shklovsky.) In the 1980s, he and Ron Sukenick transformed Fiction Collective into FC2, and I learned about FC2 (and ISU) partly through the two “sampler collections” they put out (something I wish more presses did). Curt’s also written seven works of fiction, including The Idea of Home and Memories of My Father Watching TV, and now five works of nonfiction, including his infamous attack on Terry Gross (among other things), The Middle Mind. (He may not have made Gross cry, but he sure pissed off a lot of her fans.)
I’m only halfway through this new book (and will be writing more about it later), but so far I’d describe it as an attack on the idea, currently very en vogue, that scientific knowledge is the only or most superior form of knowledge, and thus the only means of accounting for what it means to be human. Right from the start Curt shows how much of science’s own knowledge is shoddy and unexamined. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear scientists like Stephen Hawking claim that the universe is beautiful, but how do they understand beauty? Not very well, Curt argues. Like in The Spirit of Disobedience, Curt demonstrates how other intellectual traditions—specifically Romanticism, which he traces through the Beats and punk—offer a way around and past some of the more inane debates consuming so many today, such as “science vs. religion.” Plus he’s funny, too.
If you’re in Chicago this Thursday, come by and hear Curt! Discussion will follow during which you can ask him embarrassing questions.
TERRY GROSS: A lot of people think we look very similar, would you care to comment on that?
JONATHAN FRANZEN: Well Terry, you do sort of look like a man; no offense, and I’m dating a feminist, so we’re on the same team here. Most women have long hair and softer features, which is where the problem is. I just think Americans really need to step back and realize it’s not all about capitalism and gender. My new novel Freedom aims to expose the underbelly and subconscious of the American pathos.
TERRY GROSS: Thanks, that was really touching — speaking of which, what am I hearing under the table?
JONATHAN FRANZEN: Well Terry, I’m under contractual agreement with my publishers to “pound away at [my] future,” and this moment I’m focusing on DNA.
TERRY GROSS: Gross.
JONATHAN FRANZEN: Franzen.