What is wrong with Jonathan Franzen?

I have never read anything by Jonathan Franzen, novels, essays, press releases, so I can’t comment on him as a writer, but his opinions are fucking everywhere these days!  He hates e-readers and people who read “silly novels”; he apparently can’t stand women and women writers; and god forbid he have a female readership.  Does this man like anything?  Does it matter?

I’m baffled by this man.  (“Baffled” might just be Bexes Word of the Winter.)

In the past month he’s written an article about Edith Wharton for “The New Yorker” and inexplicably discusses her looks and implies that she wanted nothing more than to “run with the big boys” of literature.  Suddenly Franzen is every editor that turned away Jo March without a second thought.  Wharton’s desire to be friendly with Henry James (ugh) is not unexpected or out of the realm of reason.  They were authors in the same social circles, living in the same city, writing about the same things (in fact, sometimes I forget which one wrote which book), and an intelligent woman seeking out people who think about the same things as she does is not insane.

As for her looks…. fucking a…. if this were an article about Charles Dickens, or William Faulkner, or Leo Tolstoy, Franzen wouldn’t even have flirted with the idea of discussing how attractive they were or weren’t.  He wouldn’t think it was relevant.  But because Edith Wharton was a woman its all about a pretty face.  If she were pretty would that have made her a better writer?  Because Franzen thinks she wasn’t does that really mean that Lily Bart and Ellen Olenska is just Wharton “getting back” at the pretty girls?  Is there really any evidence that Wharton was shallow or bitter?  Or is this just Franzen’s own misogyny rearing it’s sexist head?

Why is it that whenever its a woman, or “women’s issues” things are suddenly belittled by Intellectual Men?  Why are they less than important?  Why are they reduced to shallow topics?  Why are women spoken about as if they aren’t worth anything more than their appearance?  Are men really wired this way?  They trust a pretty face, they’re sympathetic toward her, they trust her doe eyes and pouting lips so much more than they would a less attractive woman saying the same things?  Are men actually this shallow?

I want to say ‘No’, but experience has me sadly saying ‘Yes’.  Men seem to be swayed by a hair flick, or a fruity scent, pretty eyes or a large rack.  If she’s attractive, she’s worthwhile.  If he doesn’t find her attractive, she’s not worth his time.  But a man can be ugly, angry, bitter, foul, nice, jocular, charming, kind, vile, disgusting, lazy, drunk, sober, handsome, funny, stoic, boring, foppish, gay, straight…. and as long as he’s well-read, smart, intellectual, and articulate, Intellectual Men fall all over themselves to love and admire him.  But a woman, she can be well-read, smart, intellectual, and articulate, but it would be nice if she were easy on the eyes as well.  “No Uglies or Fatties Allowed in the Intellectual Elite, please.”


3 thoughts on “What is wrong with Jonathan Franzen?

  1. Interesting post. I liked your point about looks. It does seem like women are judged on appearance more often than men. I think a lot of men CHOOSE (not all, please dont get me wrong) to be this way because it’s easier and less intimidating than recognizing a women for brains or brawn or anything other than beauty.

    • I am inclined to agree with you. I don’t like it, but I think you are right. Men, for some reason especially Intellectual Men, seem to not want to admit that women are equally clever as they (or their heroes) are. They’re the ones who will dismiss a female author because she’s a “women’s writer” and expect fans to take it lying down; but then they’re the same ones that get their panties in a twist when you refer to some canonical male writer as a “men’s writer”: It’s not a BAD thing, it’s just sometimes Very True.

      Sorry, I’ve been on a pretty big soap box lately.
      Happy reading, friend!

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