The Harvard Crimson does a nice job covering last night’s public discussion between James Wood and Jonathan Franzen. The two needn’t have hung out in the same room if they didn’t want to: Wood took some whacks at The Corrections (and the widescreen social novel in general) back in 2001, and Franzen dismissed criticism these days for not “responding intelligently to the text. So few people are actually doing serious criticism. It’s so snarky, it’s so ad hominum, it’s so black and white.” Even the people who’ve been nice to his work earn his scorn: He dubbed Michiko Kakutani, who liked The Corrections, “the stupidest person in New York City.” Noting that he’s had a rough time writing fiction since 9/11, Franzen wondered out loud what role the novelist plays today:
“When you have the opportunity to do a documentary—to do Frontline, to do The Wire—and reach a much larger audience much quicker and you actually gain, it’s more vivid, you can go right to the body on the street in Baghdad and can have that up on the screen,” Franzen said. “I’m engaged in a lifelong struggle to produce texts that have that kind of interior depth that is not immediately apparent, that repay some kind of careful analysis without losing people who just want to follow along on the surface.”
2 thoughts on “Wood vs. Franzen”
I think the fact that Frantzen is dazzled by the power of documentary shows that he doesn’t understand the power of fiction. That lack of understanding is evidenced in his (at best) second-rate novels.
Sounds like Wood dropped the ball if he let Franzen get away with this kind of haughty drivel.