I enjoyed 'The Corrections' and thought it a solid and engaging novel. I just want to get that out front.
In the following article, an analysis of the satirical work of Karl Kraus, Franzen simultaneously defends himself against charges of luddite-ism, declares himself the proud user of a PC (vs. the smug but somehow intellectually vacuous MacIntosh) and proclaims Amazon's Jeff Bezos to be one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Bezos' crime: providing access to every writer--regardless of skill--the once exclusive and elusive world of publishing. With next day delivery!
You are all, by the way, 'yakkers and braggers' and Franzen, ever the champion of women everywhere, calls out Jennifer Weiner as being the most prominent example of opportunistic DIY publishing. Franzen has already made his views on gaining favor with female readers known (he doesn't want you and he doesn't need you), thanks to his sparring with Oprah Winfrey, but this latest attack on Amazon in general, and on Weiner in particular, is as wrong-headed as it is sexist.
Franzen seems to like to play the contrarian asshole, and I don't want to take this role away from him, but there is something special about these tail-end Baby Boomers like Franzen who proclaim the end of everything once the unwashed masses get ahold of this or that institution. (Institutions that embraced these very same Baby Boomers during a now passed Golden era of integrity and quality.) Ironic that the Baby Boomers never wonder if it was in fact they themselves who have ruined any number of political, social or cultural institutions with their incessant bitching and narcissistic contemptuousness.
Anyway, yes, Amazon's publishing arm does provide many more people who would have once been excluded from the publishing world ready access to a reading, consuming public. Yes the existence of self-published e-books increases 'the noise' and the chatter surrounding the business of buying and selling books, and Amazon's existence could make it more difficult for the reader to find qualitative works amidst the many many choices.
In this, though, I prefer the perspective of Seth Godin http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/ who more optimistically believes that quality will always find a way to define and distinguish itself.
There is no shortcut to creating good and worthy art.
But the democratization of the publishing industry is a trend that we should all celebrate. Yes, much like the music industry before it, there will be an initial period of disarray and even destruction, but the rise of both Amazon and of the e-book will, besides being a dramatic paradigm shift, also introduce many writers to the readers who want and need their work. The publishing industry will no longer place its behemoth self in the way.
The niche market will rule the day. Oh, and guess what, Mr. Franzen: literary fiction is a niche market, too.
Finally this: Franzen doesn't lend himself to much sympathy, but, and I offer this by way of the scant compassion I can muster, self-proclaimed cultural warriors have before them a sad and lonely road. And in defense of Franzen's writing process, I have to wonder what it must be like for him to sit before the blank page (on his PC, not Mac) now that he's declared himself as one of our few remaining paragons of literary greatness.
Living up to his own strafing standards where all but the white and the male and the elite can and should be read by the erudite and the educated masses may yet prove the most difficult travail in his supposed post-apocalyptic world.
What say you? Any thoughts on Jonathan Franzen's piece?