Time on Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s new novel ‘Freedom’ has been causing a stir among reviewers — one Guardian Books blogger is already calling it the novel of the century.

Time magazine a couple of weeks ago gave Franzen the honour of being on its cover — something achieved by very few authors and was the magazine’s gesture towards placing him in the canon of ‘The Great American Novelists’.

The accompanying article was, compared to most of these profile pieces, long and thoughtful and had some comment on where novel writing might be heading in the future:

‘Early readers of Freedom, including this one, have found that the book has an addictive quality, the kind one usually associates with mysteries or thrillers. This isn’t by accident. Franzen is very conscious that people are freer than ever — that word again — to spend their time and attention being entertained by things that aren’t books. That awareness has changed the way he writes.’

Franzen, suggests the profile’s author, Levi Grossman, argues that this need to work to engage harder with the reader by implication means that to avoid becoming an obsolete and arcane art form the novel needs to avoid intellectual novelty-seeking and boundary stretching. Perhaps the self-indulgent aspect of literary fiction might finally be exhausted:

‘A lot of literary fiction strikes a bargain with the reader: you suck up a certain amount of difficulty, of resistance and interpretive work and even boredom, and then you get the payoff. This arrangement, which feels necessary and permanent to us, is primarily a creation of the 20th century. Freedom works on something more akin to a 19th century model, like Dickens or Tolstoy: characters you care about, a story that hooks you. Franzen has given up trying to impress with his scintillating prose (which he admits he was still doing in The Corrections). “It seems all the more imperative, nowadays, to fashion books that are compelling, because there is so much more distraction they have to resist,” he says. “To me, now, to do something new is not to develop a form for the novel that has never been seen on earth before. It means to try to come to terms as a person and a citizen with what’s happening in the world now and to do it in some comprehensible, coherent way.”‘

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2010000-4,00.html#ixzz0yAaJL6mA

2 Replies to “Time on Franzen”

  1. Hi Mike ! Glad to hear that you are churning out the word although how you can write in a Weatherspoons I don’t know. When I write I have to be shut away compleely on my own without any distraction. You’ll se from my own blog that I recently went to visit a black Pentacostle church service for back story for mt=y character Roland – it was definately worth the couple of hours I sat getting a sore bum on a hard bench being verwhelmed with Praise the Lords!

    I too have managed a fair bit over the past few days…I’d say about 8k including an aempt at an ending – I have a tutorial n Friday with Emma so I m biting my nails in anticipation of what she’ll say about it.

    The most amusing story I read about Blair “book” was tht someone on Facebok has set up a page which invites as many people as possible to suruptitiously re locate A Journey to Horror, Crime fiction or other alternative section – I thought that was quite brilliant – se you in Waterstones!!

    Am still in Vienna – hopin to go to the opera this evvenning as the tickets were SO epensive I dont want to miss it – have been lying low for a couple of days resting with my cold.

    Bren Gosling

  2. Not much was done in the Wetherspoon but I have managed to put a reference in the novel to the setting (comparing it with a job centre) so it served as some research. I wrote for an hour in a car showroom waiting for my car to have an extortionately priced service — and somehow I’ve ended up with some driving in what I’ve written.

    Well done on your 8k. I made myself write yesterday until I got over the 10k figure in 6 days. What I’ve done so far is pretty poor quality but I’m going back and revising bits as I go. I’m finding that writing down anything on the page — even if it’s rubbish — then prompts me to think more about it later on that if I’d not done anything.

    If you have time it would be interesting to mention that David Nicholls book to Emma as it seems to break so many rules — but is compelling and emotionally absorbing. It’s a fascinating book to read from a writer’s perspective. I e-mailed the author and he seems a nice chap as he e-mailed back within a couple of days and wished me luck with my writing.

    Shame about the cold. I’m glad you’re enjoying Vienna.

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