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« We decided to skip the parasailing | Main | Gellhorn before Hemingway »


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To be honest, I would have been leery of Scott and Zelda in their prime--there was an awful lot of psycho stuff going on there. I wouldn't have wanted Hemingway as a friend in his prime or otherwise: remember him mocking friends of his in " The Sun Also Rises"? Fitzgerald's alleged sexual inadequacy in "A Movable Feast"? The spectre of that world class jerk would have sent me running for the hills. I love Hemingway's short fiction and "The Sun Also Rises" plus many parts of his other novels. But when he attempts to write women...sorry, I fall off the bandwagon.

El Jefe

"He’s an unoriginal thinker who writes the prose of equivalent of Academy-approved painting after the Impressionists have shown up." This, in very large letters of fire. Because within his own world it's the most damning comment. (I'll leave aside his being a colossal, self-involved asshat on a scale that makes Paul Theroux look like St. Francis in his prime.) It's why I frankly don't read "literary" fiction and haven't since much after college, which is twenty years at least now. People will be reading Leonard and Pratchett and the like a hundred years from now, just as we read those "unforgiveable hacks" Dickens and Twain. And even the circle of people who say they've read Franzen shrinks towards vanishing, like the forgotten stalwarts of NYT reviews from 1912.


Re: Scott and Zelda, yep. Smile in an unoffending way and keep stepping backwards till you find the door. Like Mark Ruffalo said of a certain Norse deity, minds like a bag full of cats, and not just Zelda's although definitely hers as well. And Hemingway did take way too much pleasure in recounting it all. But -- and I'm sure this is a guy thing -- he was fun to listen to when holding court, so long as you didn't step in too close.


For casting, it's good that they got Clive Owen because at least he has charisma and the right complexion. But the only marquee star I would really buy as Hemingway involves getting Brad Pitt to put on thirty pounds and then play the feckless characters of his youth grown bitingly older.

Steven Hart

Franzen is like a James Gould Cozzens in search of his Dwight Macdonald.


Nothing I've read about Franzen has ever convinced me that reading Franzen would be worth my time, not even to see why he gets so much attention.


If you promise to bring Ava along you could use this pool now that it's got a nice new deck surrounding it.


I have to say that I keep trying to read Franzen (and David Foster Wallace) and I find Franzen astoundingly dull, with a tin ear for dialogue, whereas Foster Wallace takes self-pleasing turgidity to levels undreamed since Tolstoy decided to incorporate vast chunks of third-rate philosophizing into War and Peace. I am relieved to find that persons of taste and discernment (that's you, Mr Mannion!) share these views.

minstrel hussain boy

working with and around superbly talented artists like i do, i have more than a few memories and a better than passing acquaintence with the extreme levels of asshole-itude they can bring.

one, in particular stands out. he's a talented composer, he's written songs that can still move me after more than a thousand playings. as a singer, he's not brilliant, but damned if he's not effective.

bring down the curtain, turn off the kleig lights, move the audience out of the seats they fill and dude's a human liability. when his chemical mix is right, he can be charming and fun for a while. too little and he's morose, listless and requires careful attention lest he do damage to property and people around him. too much and he's a vicious, unpredictable stoned asshole. no matter his condition, he needs minding.

over and over with this guy, (who shall remain nameless on account of i gots to work) i have found myself at the ragged edge of walking away, or doing me some violence first, then walking away.

somewhere in his immense self-absorbtion must lurk a shred of awareness of others. usually moments before i am ready to blow everything to hell and walk, he will, out of the blue, do some act of beauty, or perform something so exquisite that i force myself to stay at least for another set.

artists are different from the rest of us. they just are. the sons of bitches.


"(Franzen) treats readers as if they’ve shown up on his doorstep uninvited to ask him impertinent questions he feels obligated to answer in exhausting detail. "

Thank you, yes. And the question I asked as I scrolled through that interminable Guardian piece was, "who asked?". You nailed the petty haughtiness, the weird resentment that emanates from every sorry bit on or by Franzen I've ever read. I think he's a ghastly bore, a bookchat log-rolling careerist, and a middling novelist at best. You invoked Hemingways generosity of spirit, to you- I think the best writers have that, some sort of humanism at the core, some love and enthusiasm for something that comes through, compels them to write no matter their own histories, darkness. Franzen's the opposite, he seems a black hole of narcissism, where it always leads back to himself, while he protesting how he hates to talk of himself. His gripings remind me of art school pretentiousness, a perpetual MFA student whose self-chosen role is Being A Serious Writer. Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh, considering what talent he has; he's made a little go a very long way. Bra. Vo.


I have to admit that I haven't read The Corrections or Freedom -- tried to read The Corrections and it left me cold. But I've always wondered what happened to Franzen between his earlier works and The Corrections. I remember reading Twenty-Seventh City years ago and feeling trapped in the story for days afterward (didn't help that I grew up in St. Louis, where it was set). Not a good feeling given the plot, but still, it was striking how much it had affected me. Similar reaction to Strong Motion. How often do we hear of those books, though? The university library I work in doesn't have either one, only goes as far back as How to Be Alone and The Corrections, which came out the same year.

I should say, though, that I don't wonder enough to want to read anything autobiographical by him.

Paul Gottlieb

O sad, jealous Lance Manion.


Lance Mannion is neither sad nor jealous. Envious, perhaps, but not really.

The only thing I've read by Franzen was that long piece in "The New Yorker" about taking David Foster Wallace's ashes to some remote island, and how the whole trip was a pain in the ass, and by the end of it I knew I never needed to read anything else by him again. So get that bile out, L.M. Your usual style is so generally upbeat it's nice to see the dark side peek out now and then.

And Hemingway was a creep who shit on his early friends and mentors in Paris in "A Moveable Feast." Fitzgerald may have been a totally alcoholic, sad mess, but his writing just gets better with each passing year, which is not something I'd say about Hemingway.

J. Dvorak

Sad? Jealous? No. I don't like Jonathan Franzen's stuff much either.

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