His slick and hollow work is premised on a despair of ever honoring all the aspirations. The commotion surrounding the publication of this pseudo-masterpiece reminds me of Orwell’s mordant observation that “to apply a decent standard to the ordinary run of novels is like weighing a flea on a spring-balance intended for elephants. On such a balance as that a flea would simply fail to register; you would have to start by constructing another balance which revealed the fact that there are big fleas and little fleas.” Freedom is a big flea, perhaps even a giant one. But if Franzen is the best we’ve got, he still isn’t good enough. His literary edifices have the look of greatness, but greatness eludes them. If my children someday ask, “What did you do in the culture wars, Mommy?” I hope I can come up with something better than “I read a novel by Jonathan Franzen.”One wonders at the impulse to crown a genius, even when our current literary scene doesn't merit one, nor can it produce anything that will out live any of us.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Ruth Franklin's take-down: