Much Ado About Franzen

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Over the past couple weeks, Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker essay on Edith Wharton has incited a number of responses.

At The Daily Beast, Marina Budhos examines why Franzen took such a “tortuous and offensive back door route” to find sympathy for Wharton, instead of “exploring empathy” for an author who, she argues, faced similar writerly preoccupations as Franzen himself.

Victoria Patterson’s reaction in the Los Angeles Review of Books rips into the emphasis on Wharton’s appearance. “Franzen perpetuates the typically patriarchal standard of ranking a woman’s beauty before discussing her merits, whether she is an intellectual, artist, politician, activist, or musician.”

This week at Tulane, Franzen answered a question about social networking, expressing his opinion that Twitter “stands for everything I oppose” and is “the ultimate irresponsible medium.”

Jami Attenberg, who wrote down Franzen’s thoughts, responds. “He will never understand how hard it is to get ahead as a writer, never again in his life. I’m not suggesting he’s old-fashioned. I’m suggesting he has lost perspective.”

Roxane Gay also reflects and offers some key advice for anyone ambivalent about social networking: “Do what you like. Do what you want. Don’t stress.”


Lisa Dusenbery is the former managing editor of The Rumpus. More from this author →