Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jonathan Franzen

I went to hear Jonathan Franzen speak on Saturday night. I went with some buddies from the best ever bookclub (word to the BDBC!!!). Not everyone wanted to go because several people still hate The Corrections with a passion. I hadn't read that one, but had really liked a lot of things about Freedom. Not the super bad sex scene(s). Not the bazillion pages about mountain top removal. I loved the characters, particularly Patti. I wanted to jump into the book and be her friend when she needed one.

Franzen was way more charming than I expected and significantly more handsome, too. He had this fantastic grin. He'd get lost in something or digress down some little rabbit hole, realize it and then look up and flash this fantastic smile and I found myself forgiving that whole ugly Oprah thing.

I so wish I had brought a notebook with me, though. He'd say things and I really felt like I needed to really look at them and decide what I thought about them, but then he was already talking about something else and I didn't have time. Of course, it appears I might have a chance since I saw a deal in Pub Lunch today for a book of essays from him one of which has the same title as the talk he gave.

Anyway he had this list of things he considered his enemies when writing a book and I'm pretty sure he did at least two of the things on the list in Freedom and I thought, well, well, well, people in glass houses shouldn't introduce pots to kettles. Just as I was about to start to feel somewhat smug, though, I started to wonder how many things I hate in other people's books I might do in my own and opted to cancel the self-righteousness for the moment.

One thing I couldn't quite stop myself from laughing out loud about, though, was when he was talking about writing The Corrections. At one point, he said he'd been working on one character for about a year and at the end of the year had 30 pages written. THIRTY PAGES!!!!!!! Jumpin' Jehosophat! That's not even a page a week. Can you imagine an active romance writer producing 30 pages in a year! Thumb your nose at our mechanistic plotting (yes, he said that, but not just about romance writers. He said it about all genre fiction writers.), at least we get the words on the page.

Has there been an author you've heard speak that defied your expectations? Or met them? Who?


Stephanie Doyle said...

Charming and handsome? Really? I saw him on Bill Mahr and thought goofy and shy. But I guess endearing.

I haven't read him - mostly because I'm not in to his type of fiction.

But Bill said Freedom was truly the "Great American Novel."

And I'm always like... what in the hell does that mean?

I'll stick to my mechanicist (althought I'm not sure I know what that means - see why I shouldn't be reading Franzen) plot.

To say you need a year to "build" a character. I'm sorry. I think that is horsehooey. That's just someone who enjoys the art of staring out into space and when asked what he's doing he says... working.

Okay - I'll take my bitter self off stage now.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I saw Franzen after The Corrections, which I really liked and he is handsome, very charming dude. One of my favorites was David Foster Wallace who shambled up onto the stage before he could be introduced, he had this stocking cap on and he looked around and kind of mumbled, "well, I guess I'll read, then." it was early in his career but I was brought up short slightly and then totally in love.

But I'm with Steph - horsehooey. I just read a great book - The Autumn of Jacob De Zoet - I might be missing a word in there - and it's literary meets all kinds of genre and in that it's complicated and subtle and sophisticated - but there was all kinds of plot. The pages turned and turned. I feel like those literary authors who look down on genre just don't realize what taking a page from the genre playbook could do for thier books and career.
But I love going to readings. I loved going to see The Eat Pray Love woman last year.

Eileen said...

Steph, you keep your bitter self right there on the stage. My judgmental self will sit right next to her.

I've heard people saying that Freedom is the Great American Novel, too, and honestly I don't quite see it that way. I think it's a really interesting look inside a marriage. I'm glad I read it. It didn't change my life.

Just thinking about David Foster Wallace makes me a little sad. So much talent. So much sadness. Franzen has all the neuroses of Wallace, but may be just narcissistic enough to keep himself out of real depression problems.

And no! Not the Eat Pray Love chick! No! Talk about narcissists! Eesh!!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

LOL Molly brought up Eileen's nemesis. Come on Eileen, share your rage!

(Come on Eileen. Accidental lyrics quotation. :)

I need to go to more readings... The IFOA is on at Harbourfront soon or now... Must go.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Eileen on her nemesis... just the trailer for the movie made me angry...

Freedom... yet another book I need to read. My TBR pile is crushing.

Eileen said...

Freedom will totally crush you. It's like a bazillion pages. You can totally skip the 100 or so on mountain top removal. Oh, and make sure to breeze by the phone sex scene. Ewww!!!

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