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 oppose…it's hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…it'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.