2.01.2012

Serious Readers Consider Franzen a Douchebag


Chalkboards. Terracotta planters. Unglazed ceramics. These are things that literally grate on my nerves, just as they make my back teeth clench down on each other. I scowl when faced with these terrible items – the mere thought of having to touch any one of them makes me scrunch up my face and swallow hard. These things repel me.

I had the exact same reaction when I read this article, wherein American author, Jonathan Franzen, states his intense dislike of E-readers, and his feelings that those who chose slumming with them over the good ol’ paper variety of books are not ‘serious readers.’

Ouch.

My assumption (and yes, I have read his books), is that Franzen considers himself an intellectual, and so must make intellectual statements, including one stating that capitalists hate paperbacks (too permanent), and that the obsolescence of books will make it very hard for the world to work (!), as well as the idea that '… (that) kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.'

Jonathan Franzen is a luddite. And a goody two-shoes. What kind of an author does not appreciate a bit of anarchy? Well, if I judge by his books, one with no imagination.

Separately, I can handle such character flaws, but there has to be something redeeming to make me still respect what that character has to say. Hank Moody, for example, is the perfect luddite. He types at a typewriter, listens to vinyl, fears change and fucks hookers. That’s pretty old school. But he’s also clever, and a hedonist, and is clearly no stranger to anarchy. He also knows how to write a sex scene, something Franzen is woefully terrible at. Hank Moody is redeemed. I know, he’s also fictional, which makes his transgressions even more forgiveable.

Franzen, however, just sounds like a douchebag. I'm hoping this means that he is giving a significant portion, if not all, of the proceeds from the E-books he has sold to charity. He also doesn’t seem to understand how E-readers work. He likes paper because it is permanent and unalterable. Exactly how does one alter the text in an E-reader? Let me know, because if it can be done, there are lots of books I’d like to improve. I’ll start with Freedom.

I’ll admit that I was iffy on the subject of E-readers when they first came out, worried that they would somehow dilute my experience as a reader, or that I would be cheating on my beloved, full bookcase by downloading to my Kobo. Of course, I was wrong, and any ‘serious’ reader knows that, in this case (as in many others), so was Marshal McLuhan was wrong. The medium is not the message. The essence, the importance, the beauty of a story is the words, not the paper they are written on. 

Seriously. 


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