Author Jonathan Franzen is well on his way to being that crusty old-timer who wants you off his lawn. If it plugs in and it's not a bird, he probably has a problem with it. First it was the snobby feud with Oprah (which had a happy ending), then it was hating on e-books, and now it's Twitter and Facebook. Franzen, as literary types know, is old-school.

The Freedom author gave a reading at Tulane University on Monday, and blogger Jami Attenberg was on hand, writing down some of what Franzen said. When asked a question about social networking, Franzen responded:

"It's a free country. People can do whatever they want within the law, and even some things not within the law...I personally was on Facebook for two weeks as part of a piece of journalism I was writing -- it seemed sort of dumb to me. Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140's like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it's like writing a novel without the letter "P"...It's the ultimate irresponsible medium. People I care about are readers...particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves."

Franzen makes some good points, but so does Attenberg when she says that Franzen

"doesn't understand that a lot of writers have to use the medium as a promotional device as well as a way to build networks. He doesn't have to do anything! He has a publicist who probably has dreams about him every night, whether he has a book coming or not. He is free to write and just be himself, while the rest of us are struggling to be heard and recognized."

Franzen is entitled to his opinion, and has no problem expressing it. But his overwhelming success makes him a juicy target for both jealous colleagues and lovers of brief, innocuous brain droppings alike. So it's not surprising that vengeful Tweeters launched a campaign to give it to that middle-aged fogey stuck in his twentieth-century ways, setting up the hashtag #JonathanFranzenHates, and showering him with profanity. One sarcastic commenter using the name EvilWylie Tweeted, "#jonathanfranzenhates Emoticons, because it takes 600 pages to accurately convey emotion."

Of course, Franzen is oblivious to all of this, as he's working on his next book, writing in longhand by candlelight.

Commentarium (5 Comments)

Mar 07 12 - 7:32pm

I think he has less of a problem with technology and probably a bit more of a problem with narcissistic people using it as a medium to broadcast their every whim.

Mar 07 12 - 11:18pm

What about in Freedom when Blackberrys are only described in context of interrupting everything? The guy hates the future

Mar 07 12 - 11:56pm

Tweeters pound Franzen. That was the only interesting part of this article.

Mar 08 12 - 2:35am

Attenberg's argument is pretty flat in my opinion. It's not like Franzen was born with a publicist. He earned a publicist, and all other associated privileges, by being an excellent writer. And he became one without promoting himself online.

I know so many wannabe writers that spend so much time researching and worrying and asking about things like networking, and they spend so little time actually doing work. It's depressing. I'm quite sure that anyone who makes it as a novelist, poet, or essayist would have done so with or without a Facebook account promoting their endeavors. And anyone who does make it solely thanks to networking probably isnt long for this world, creatively speaking.

Mar 09 12 - 11:37am
old school

Both Tweeter and Facebook are an invasion of privacy and narcissistic. I don't care to involve myself and I really don't care about you.