Albert Burneko, I’ve mentioned him in the past, is a household name in the house I live in. Last week he stole an idea from Amanda and I for turning this site into a “deadspin for books: bookspin.” Specifically, he reviewed Jonathan Franzen’s latest book, Purity. The timing of his review was impeccable because Amanda and I had been talking about Franzen the night before, going over this review in Grantland and this interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Anyway, so Burneko. His review, which is just of the first 35 pages of the book (which is how far he said he’d gotten before being inspired to steal our idea of “bookspin”), deals directly with his uneasiness with how the author, Franzen, seems to leer at his own creation, the main character of the novel, Pip. Read it, and especially the penultimate paragraph.
Jonathan Franzen is much smarter and exponentially more learned than I am, and if you haven’t figured it out by reading this blog post, he also is much the better writer of the two of us, too. This would hardly be the first literary novel of the 21st century to circle back around itself, crawl up its own ass, and make a meta-commentary on Major Themes via, like, making you think about the role of the author or whatever. I am always wary of this kind of thing, both because I have a chip on my shoulder about people who went to college and became educated enough for multidimensional thought but also because in many cases it strikes me as a kind of waterproofing against criticism—No, man, what you perceive as flaws were incorporated deliberately for the sake of making an honest commentary about the inescapability of authorial privilege and perspective-as-prison and the nature of art, man, and that makes them good!—and criticizing things is a thing I like doing, so I prefer not to be told that my criticism, itself, is some kind of meta-commentary of its own.
Yes I said yes I will yes.
So, yeah, I’m probably not going to ever read a Franzen novel, because he seems like a kind of lechy dork.
[UPDATE]: Holy christ, on Tuesday Gawker called Purity “a horrible abortion.” Okay then. They also linked to this 13-year-old review of Franzen’s The Corrections. Wow. Franzen is, like, literally literary Hitler.