Are Novelists Worth Listening to?

by F.

Richard Rorty, whom I admire, argues for “a religion of literature, in which works of the secular imagination replace Scripture as the principal source of inspiration and hope for each new generation. We should cheerfully admit that canons are temporary, and touchstones replaceable.” Sounds cool.

Now listen to one of today’s leading literary novelists describing his marriage:

[the novelist] writes that he and his wife “lived on our own little planet,” spending “superhuman amounts of time by ourselves.” He fills his journals with transcripts of fights they’ve had, and writes that they both “reacted to minor fights at breakfast by lying facedown on the floor of our respective rooms for hours at a time, waiting for acknowledgment of our pain.” “I wrote poisonous jeremiads to family members who I felt had slighted my wife,” he adds, while “she presented me with handwritten fifteen-and twenty page analyses of our condition; I was putting away a bottle of Maalox every week.”

That sounds pretty enlightened. This author sounds like a really pleasant child, too:

[the author says he] “personally enjoyed winning and couldn’t see why so much fuss was made about the losers” like Charlie Brown. He proceeds to recount his showdown in a Homonym Spelldown with another student named Chris Toczko, writing that “I was a nice enough little boy as long as you kept away from my turf” and that Toczko made the terrible mistake of being unaware of the fact that “I, not he, by natural right, was the best student in the class.”

“I’m the homonym champion! I am! Me me me!” Are you fucking serious? The Homonym Spelldown? Get that kid a Playstation for fuck’s sake.

Who is this prick author? National Book Award Winner and Oprah-offender Jonathan Franzen. The quotes come from a hatchet job review by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. (Login annoyingly required.)

To paraphrase Harold Bloom: words are everywhere, but where is wisdom to be found? Not in this muthafucker’s head. Ditto, mutatis mutandis for other literary savants—Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and on and on and on. I want more wisdom per dollar than these dudes can deliver.