In a recent interview with The Guardian's Alison Flood promoting his hefty new novel, Purity, Jonathan Franzen made a startling admission.
As Flood put it, "He once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people better, but was persuaded against it by his editor." Franzen, with the benefit of hindsight, concedes the absurdity of the plan: "Oh, it was insane, the idea." To put it gently, yes.
Tone-deaf, insensitive comments that rub less privileged writers and readers the wrong way have become Franzen's unintentional identifying characteristic within the literary world. He's bashed the platforms available on the Internet, which many see as a democratizing force; he was impolite to Oprah when she selected his book for her influential book club; he once critiqued a male novelist for writing about a woman.
Franzen's Guardian interview really snapped things into focus, however. He isn't just some run-of-the-mill white male novelist with a slightly inflated ego. He's Lucille Bluth.
I'm not kidding. Trying to adopt a child purely to boost his career -- that's only one parallel. What about the general misanthropy, lack of curiosity and obliviousness to the way we live now? If Franzen were a woman with a closet full of pantsuits instead of a man with a writing career, he would be the imposing matriarch of the sitcom "Arrested Development."
To prove it, I've rounded up the GIFs and quotes to demonstrate, in 11 easy steps, that Lucille Bluth is Jonathan Franzen's spirit animal:
Totally lacking in parental instincts.
Franzen: "One of the things that had put me in mind of adoption was a sense of alienation from the younger generation. They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people."
Out of touch with the lives of normal people.
Franzen: "My beef was -- and is -- with the techno-utopianists who think connectivity is the same thing as community, and who mistake texting and blogging for literary creativity."
Possesses a very narrow scope of curiosity.
Franzen: "J. D. Salinger might be an example of an American writer whose reputation has similarly benefitted from being read in people’s youth."
Refuses to engage with new things, regardless of evidence.
Franzen: "Not only am I not a Luddite, I'm not even sure the original Luddites were Luddites. ... But not long ago, when I was intemperate enough to call Twitter 'dumb' in public, the response of Twitter addicts was to call me a Luddite. Nyah, nyah, nyah! It was as if I'd said it was 'dumb' to smoke cigarettes, except that in this case I had no medical evidence to back me up."
Just a little hypocritical.
Franzen: "Twitter is unspeakably irritating ... People I care about are readers … particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves."
Troubled by delusions of grandeur, self-centered.
Franzen: “I’d been working nine years on [The Corrections] and FSG had spent a year trying to make a best-seller of it. It was our thing. [Oprah] was an interloper, coming late, and with an expectation of slavish [Ed. note: Come on, dude] gratitude and devotion for the favor she was bestowing.”
Superficial, at least about women.
Franzen: "Lacking good looks and the feminine charms that might have accompanied them, [Edith Wharton] eventually became, in every sense but one, the man of her house."
Views women as sexual temptresses.
Franzen: [Please see any scene related to a woman's sexual choices in Franzen's fiction, for example, this one from Freedom:] "That she could say all this, and not only say it but remember it very clearly afterward, does admittedly cast doubt on the authenticity of her sleep state. But the autobiographer is adamant in her insistence that she was not awake at the moment of betraying Walter and feeling his friend split her open."
Deeply, unconvincingly defensive about own flaws:
Franzen: “I’m not a sexist. I am not somebody who goes around saying men are superior, or that male writers are superior. In fact, I really go out of my way to champion women’s work that I think is not getting enough attention. None of that is ever enough. Because a villain is needed. It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.”
Fond of birds.
Franzen: "Even the most ominously degraded landscape could make me happy if it had birds in it."
You know what, Mr. Franzen? Don't fight it. Lucille Bluth is a pretty great sitcom doppelgänger to have. Now just do a better job at convincing us you're joking.
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