Re: Sorry about double-Slate-posting.

1

I hate him!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:00 AM
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Some of the quotations in this article are pretty choice.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:01 AM
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I always get him confused with David Foster Wallace and I don't know why.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:01 AM
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I also hate him! 3 makes me sad.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:13 AM
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3: They were friends (frenemies?), and Frantzen speaks and writes about him often. Seems like a reasonable confusion.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:17 AM
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Comity. Jonathan Franzen is horrible.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:17 AM
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Comity. Jonathan Franzen is horrible.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:17 AM
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"speaks and writes about him often" should be "is totally willing to throw dirt on his former friend for attention now that he is too dead to rebut it"


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:20 AM
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That's why I'm trying to outlive everybody I know.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:21 AM
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Moby only hangs out with senior citizens. Meanwhile, his kids are worried.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:32 AM
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I don't know. I see a lot to like in the "Shut the hell up" reaction to the Twitter-active/"Let's talk too much about our feelings about what's on television" tide.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:41 AM
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I read an essay by him called "my father's brain" which was nice in a completely ordinary magazine piece sort of way.

I have started to read several other essays by him, generally because someone else has written something saying that the essay is evil and wrong-headed. I never get to the evil and wrong-headed part, though. The boring part apparently always comes before the evil and wrong-headed part and goes on for quite some time.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:42 AM
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Franzen's a decent writer, but he sure as hell has managed to piss away most of my positive feelings toward him.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:42 AM
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I've never read Franzen. Oddly, perhaps, the one successful avant-garde-ish writer I know really liked The Corrections, while everyone else I know with good taste says they hated it. That Slate article kind of makes me want to defend him though, fuck Slate.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:44 AM
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I hated the short portion of that book I actually read.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:46 AM
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Michael Chabon, who is pretty much more or less the same as Franzen and DFW, just did a book signing here. I really should read Mysteries of Pittsburgh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:46 AM
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The Corrections made me feel as if I were missing the point somehow. It wasn't horribly badly written or anything, but I couldn't figure out why people were excited about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:50 AM
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who is pretty much more or less the same as Franzen and DFW

No way!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:51 AM
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Every time I hear people talk about how great The Corrections was (and particularly how great its female characters were) I die a little.

Michael Chabon, who is pretty much more or less the same as Franzen and DFW, just did a book signing here.

This is silly -- we all know that Michael Chabon is the same as Jonathan Lethem.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:53 AM
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They're white guys about the same age.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:54 AM
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ISTR that Lord Castock liked The Corrections.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:55 AM
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Parts of The Corrections were amazing, but I trouble fitting it all together. Freedom was more cartoonish (although also quite long). With each one, I felt like there was a really good 250 page book in there somewhere.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 10:58 AM
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19.3 made me laugh.

I felt the same way as LB in 17 about Corrections, but I hated Freedom, and it made me me reevaluate the earlier book, and I realized I hated it too.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:06 AM
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13. Seems right. The 27th City was pretty good. He writes realistic or near-realistic novels set in the present, Maybe a contemporary Goncharov or Trollope, OK at depicting surfaces but that's all. Pieces of The Corrections are nicely observed, and it's well written. He seems personally unpleasant from headlines about interviews, but so what.

DFW doesn't do it for me, a pale copy of Gaddis. I'm enjoying Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence a lot right now.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:09 AM
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DFW as a copy, pale or otherwise, of Gaddis strikes me as an odd diagnosis.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:13 AM
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Is Franzen wrong about Amazon, and the prevalence of touts there and elsewhere?

Even a boring jerk finds an acorn now and then.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:19 AM
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Surreal, lots of ancillary detail verging on the encyclopedic, large themes, funny. Gaddis writes with more humility (or did DFW have yet more funny ideas in addition to the ones he wrote?) and also has more to say though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:19 AM
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This made me laugh:

http://the-toast.net/2013/09/16/rage-jonathan-franzen/


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:20 AM
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Every time I hear people talk about how great The Corrections was (and particularly how great its female characters were) I die a little.

Somebody actually praised his depictions of women? That...surprises me.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:28 AM
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Frantzen was asked who he doesn't like, said Graham Greene. Really, how can you not like GG?


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:30 AM
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I could imagine personally disliking Graham Greene -- I'm not sure that I would, or wouldn't, but he seems like the sort of person who might inspire strong reactions. Not thinking he was a good writer, on the other hand, does seem bizarre.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:31 AM
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I'm enjoying Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence a lot right now.

How is it? I think he's a magnificent novelist, but something about the plot synopsis put me off starting that one.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:32 AM
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29 - It's something that I've seen! Here's an example that made me close the tab.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:34 AM
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28.2 cracked me up despite never having read one of Franzen's books. Do people read the Toast? I'd never heard of it until Ta-Nehisi Coates linked to it recently and now it seems like it's everywhere. Which, I guess, is the internet for you.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:34 AM
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Bad link, snarko.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:39 AM
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30 I don't dislike Graham Greene, but I've never seen what the big deal is. The couple I read seemed like competently written thrillers with a sometimes badly fitting literary affect.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:39 AM
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Hadn't heard anything about it. Have you got a link to something?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:42 AM
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37 is in the wrong thread.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:44 AM
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35: http://thehairpin.com/2013/09/when-a-man-writes-a-woman

(The Toast is basically a spinoff of The Hairpin -- two of the Hairpin writers lit off for their own site, I think.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:44 AM
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Wrong thread, LB.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:44 AM
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32. First-person, understated, I think very well done. Not sure who to liken him to-- maybe Svevo or Kazuo Ishiguro. The style and the structure of the book (there are a bunch of digressions, or are they really just digressions, about physical objects that the narrator has saved from events in the past) both work for me, so I'm enjoying it, in contrast to Svevo, whose virtuosic novel I disliked.

Maybe I'm enjoying it partly due to a visit to Turkey last summer, really interesting country, so I'm also cool with the I think offhand discussion of Turkey in the recent past.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:45 AM
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Show of hands, who, after reading even excerpts of the article in the OP, the piece in the Guardian, or even the link in 28, is even remotely interested in buying the guy's book about Klaus?

I liked Graham Greene in Dances with Wolves but really it was his work in Snow Dogs that was truly transcendent. Who, as the man says, doesn't like GG?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 11:46 AM
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I sometimes think I must be the only person in the country who has read The 27th City but not The Corrections or Freedom.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:01 PM
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OK, just read the OP article. I'm happy to believe that Franzen is an obnoxious narcissist. I'm also happy to believe on the basis of the OP that the Slate hack is personally worse.

On the substance of the OP-- there are clearly disadvantages to the very rapid dissemination of shorter and shorter pieces of writing. There's a lot about the internet which has damaged publishing, and the likelihood that Amazon will be a major publisher does not look to me like much of an improvement. So I think that JF is at least not wrong on the substance of what he says.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:02 PM
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I'm happy to believe that Franzen is an obnxious narcissist.

ME TOO


Posted by: OPINIONATED THE LAST PSYCHIATRIST | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:08 PM
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43. I'd rather read Zadie Smith's latest than Freedom, but am likely to read more Chekhov or Maupassant than either. I think that I read Fathers and Sons too young to appreciate it, maybe that too.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:13 PM
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Will people stop comparing DFW to people who didn't write an amazing book that really hit home for me, and in fact, have not inspired me to finish reading much of anything they've written?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:19 PM
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Are you implying that you finished a DFW book? Not just one of the articles, but a whole book.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:21 PM
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49

I read Mean Interviews With Sad Jerks and really disliked it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:23 PM
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And I read the lobster story and thought its central premise was bullshit delivered disingenuously and that it was rather snobbishly unfair to midcoast Maine besides.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:25 PM
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35 is crazy talk. Snarkout's link in 33 literally blew my mind.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:26 PM
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Still might take a crack at the big one about tennis, I guess, someday. But first I have a very shiny new novel about weblogs by an old man to fail to read.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:26 PM
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At this point I've spent so many years hearing people talk about David Foster Wallace and kind of feeling like I've read him even though I haven't and kind of feeling like I should read him even though I probably won't that kind of feeling like I've read him even though I haven't and kind of feeling like I should read him even though I probably won't has become part of my identity, thus I can't read him.



Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:32 PM
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I should try rereading Infinite Jest -- I thought it was great, then it enraged me by not ending in a way I found satisfying. I don't know what I did with my copy, I don't seem to own it any more.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:32 PM
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52: I thought the essays in A Supposedly Fun Thing... were amazing. Consider The Lobster didn't do nearly as much for me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:33 PM
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Maybe I'll try to read Lucky Jim or Lord Jim or listen to Jame's "Born of Frustration."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:33 PM
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48: I read Infinite Jest and didn't get what the big deal was. It wasn't that much work to read, though, despite its length.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:33 PM
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48: Infinite Jest, even. I took a year off in the middle of reading it, but yeah, I read it and really liked it. I don't feel like I'm in a position to defend it literarily, so I'll just stick with the subjective remark that it got to me.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:34 PM
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I, too, hate Franzen!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:35 PM
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I don't have enough information to form a firm opinion about Franzen, but just as a general rule "John" > "Jon" > "Jonathan".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:37 PM
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53: You're sounding like a DFW character as you're going in circles about whether to read him. Maybe the reason why you won't read DFW is because you can't because you are a DFW character.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:39 PM
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60: Any general rules about who's better between a Franzen and a Franz?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:40 PM
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62 Ferdinand, but only the remix


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:41 PM
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41: Did you visit the actual Museum of Innocence? http://www.orhanpamuk.net/news.aspx?id=26&lng=eng


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:43 PM
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My wife did, I hadn't read the book yet. Beyoglu is a great neighborhood.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:48 PM
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I liked DFW's essays on tennis - Federer As Religious Experience and Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley . Clearly a passion for the game. They didn't inspire me to read Infinite Jest, though.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:49 PM
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I compared his Federer essay unfavorably to McPhee's Arthur Ashe book, which was certainly unfair of me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:55 PM
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If you haven't read Freedom and are trying to decide if you should, know this: There are long, long passages that are supposed to be one character's diary, but which is almost indistinguishable from the rest of the book. "She" even writes her diary in the third person. The narrator also often tells the reader how brilliant the characters are at making points or writing song lyrics, and also includes these brilliant insights and lyrics for us to admire.


Posted by: mark f the occasional delurker | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 12:56 PM
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I read Infinite Jest a few years ago during that "Infinite Summer" thing, and it was definitely one of the best books I've ever read. I definitely get LB's frustration about the ending—I remember being about 20 pages away from the end and thinking that there's absolutely no way he's gonna wrap things up in a satisfactory way in the space remaining, though thematically I think that was kind of the point of it.

I remember reading somewhere that there was another several hundreds of pages of material that was trimmed out during the editing process, and after I finished I found myself wishing I could read that extra material.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:03 PM
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62: My vote is for Frazetta.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:11 PM
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69.2: Maybe somebody will write The Book of Lost Jest.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:14 PM
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For whoever is inclined, here is John Dolan's savage takedown of The Corrections .


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:15 PM
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You're sounding like a DFW character as you're going in circles about whether to read him.

Cross posted to Standpipe's blog.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:15 PM
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I loved The Corrections and I think it has a legitimate claim to clearing the "important social novel" bar that Franzen set in that Harper's essay. It's very funny in parts. Freedom is arguably excellent but had the misfortune of coming out at the same time as A Visit from the Goon Squad which accomplished a lot of what it was trying to do with more verve, novelty and compassion. Franzen's public statements are so consistently out-of-touch and disastrous that I can't help thinking him as a kind of fallen-world Ezra Pound, but instead of a radio station in Fascist Italy he's broadcasting his pronouncements from the tall stick up his butt.

(jms just sat down next to me in the library so maybe she will throw something at me if she returns to the thread.)

I read Infinite Jest during "Infinite Summer" and I got a lot out of the internet-wide reading group being there with me. DFW's media-and-technology criticism doesn't hold up great, and the adventures of the Incandeza family do go on, but his portrait of the recovering-addict burglar Don Gately is sublime. I owned a copy for 10 years before I read it -- who can resist the blandishments of the Quality Paperback Book Club? and I would recommend it to anyone who has thought they should read it but hasn't. Although my affection for Jonathan Franzen's fiction may tarnish the recommendation.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:16 PM
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Does anyone know if DFW wanted his endnotes to be footnotes? I hope he did because fuck you, endnotes.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:18 PM
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I loved The Corrections and I think it has a legitimate claim to clearing the "important social novel" bar that Franzen set in that Harper's essay.

Nooooo, I want to continue respecting your taste. :(


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:19 PM
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I definitely get LB's frustration about the ending--I remember being about 20 pages away from the end and thinking that there's absolutely no way he's gonna wrap things up in a satisfactory way in the space remaining, though thematically I think that was kind of the point of it.

Right, that was exactly it. My experience of the book was (1) this is amusing, but it's all a kind of random mess; (2) wait a second, I'm starting to perceive some kind of structure here; (3) holy shit, this is really working well, all the threads are interweaving in a way that illuminates each other and it's building towards a; (4) huh, only a hundred pages or so left, the way he writes I'd think I'd be seeing the ending coming by now; (5) fifty. How is he going to pull this off? After my reaction to the first part of the book, I'm trusting him to pull something out of a hat, but he's running out of space; (6) twenty. Nothing satisfying is going to happen, is it; (7) Book ends, literally thrown across the room.

I'm sure that the frustration was part of the point of it all, but I was not pleased.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:19 PM
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75: Don't you think the cumbersomeness of it all was intentional? It seemed to fit in with the insane dating scheme that meant you had to refer to the chart to figure out when anything happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:20 PM
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...I can't help thinking him as a kind of fallen-world Ezra Pound, but instead of a radio station in Fascist Italy he's broadcasting his pronouncements from the tall stick up his butt.

That's an unusual definition of "fallen-world."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:21 PM
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Franzen is a perfectly decent middlebrow author, who has unaccountably decided that he is the one true arbiter of high culture. It is unfortunate.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:22 PM
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2666 sort of ended that way but the whole thing was so ambiguous that I found the ending quite... complete?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:22 PM
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81 to 77.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:22 PM
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It is a little tough for me to understand why people loathe writers like Franzen, to the great extent that they do. I thought the Toast piece was seriously gratuitous, and the critique seems to boil down to "people expect me to take this guy seriously, but he sucks!" How can life possibly not be too short to waste time worrying about the opinions of the literary establishment? It would be different if all my close friends had loved The Corrections, but I don't know anyone who does. Who is throwing this guy's work in your face all the time? I genuinely hate Milan Kundera mostly because I've had a bizarrely high number of semi-obligatory academic encounters with his work. I've never felt any obligation to read Franzen, and there doesn't seem to be a creeping Franzenification of literature. It's one of so very, very many nice things about books: if you don't open them, they leave you alone. This is not the case when you're stuck on a shuttle bus which is blasting an Adele song in your ears.

I'm mostly trolling, but with a soupçon of seriousness. So many people hate and disparage Franzen; how many more do we need before it all becomes good publicity?

(To calibrate: I'm enough of an asshole that I just find Karl Kraus kind of boring.)


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:23 PM
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I loved The Corrections. I ignore everything about Franzen that suggests he's a jerk because I like so few authors I can't afford to dislike this one. It's rather unfortunate that Franzen is a birder because I have to avoid everything he says about birding since his statements are so irritating.


Posted by: LizSpigot | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:25 PM
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Maybe we could replace Jonathan Franzen with Jonathan Kellerman. Except for having a bit too much psychology, I liked the Kellerman books I've read.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:25 PM
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Who is throwing this guy's work in your face all the time?

What, the guy who lives in heating ducts? How the hell am I supposed to know his name?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:25 PM
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75: Don't you think the cumbersomeness of it all was intentional? It seemed to fit in with the insane dating scheme that meant you had to refer to the chart to figure out when anything happened.

Well and but yes cf. "fuck you endnotes."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:25 PM
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75: DFW definitely chose endnotes over footnotes, contrary to the advice of his editor. (Incidentally, some of the endnotes have footnotes.)


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:25 PM
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Who is throwing this guy's work in your face all the time?

I believe the answer there is "Jonathan Franzen".


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:27 PM
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A Visit from the Goon Squad

The first of the books under discussion that I have read, but I didn't get the appeal. I read the first third and just stopped -- I understand that it was supposed to get more interesting as the interactions/resonances between the various threads got developed but . . . I was just completely uninvested it in. Once I realized that I didn't care what came next I decided to stop.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:27 PM
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Dammit, Franzen, out of the ducts. A) it smells, B) the heat doesn't work well, C) nobody likes getting brained by a hardcover.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:28 PM
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88: Oh well. I wouldn't mind it so much if it didn't infect so many of his other works -- that takes it, for me, from being part of the aesthetic whole of the individual work to being an intrusive personal habit.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:28 PM
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The ending of IJ was deliberate, and fit with the novel's themes. (IIRC) He's telling the story out of sequence, and he ends it with a scene in the middle of the timeline that is the most serious downer in the story. There is hope available for some of the characters in the chronological ending of the book, but he wants you to end things looking at the worst part.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:31 PM
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A Visit from the Goon Squad

Thoroughly enjoyable, although I was hoping that Lord of Misrule would win the Pulitzer that year. Egan got great acclaim for writing a chapter (set in the future) in PowerPoint, which I found slightly strange because PowerPoint gets dumped on so much as an ungainly, outmoded way of making a presentation. The content was heart-wrenching, however. And the last chapter, set in a globally-warmed Manhattan, made me smile.
(on preview, interesting contrast with NickS in 90)


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:35 PM
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Here is a persuasive extrapolation of the "real" end of Infinite Jest. It popped up during Infinite Summer. I only now gather that it's by Aaron Swartz.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:36 PM
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The ending of Infinite Jest is just bad, but "Consider the Lobster" is a good essay.

SO SAY I.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:36 PM
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89: Sam Tanenhaus (then editor of the New York Times Book Review) and Oprah Winfrey.

It's not hard to understand on why he would be hated, even if he didn't seem to have a genuine talent for being unlikable.

Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, like his previous one, The Corrections, is a masterpiece of American fiction . . . Freedom is a still richer and deeper work--less glittering on its surface but more confident in its method . . . Like all great novels, Freedom does not just tell an engrossing story. It illuminates, through the steady radiance of its author's profound moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew."--Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:40 PM
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95: That account seems to miss the fact that the mold Hal ate already had another mold growing on it.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:48 PM
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I think I've said it before, but DFW is like PKD in that the first 50-75% of their novels are just awesome, and then neither of them has any idea how to pull the threads together into a decent ending. And as much as I liked IJ, and as much as the ending is better than it seems once you look deeper into the structure of the novel, I can't help thinking that obscuring the chronological ending was his sneaky way of making it less obvious that he still didn't know how to end a story.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:50 PM
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98 does more to make me want to read DFW than 97.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:51 PM
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I've never read Franzen, but that review in 72 makes it sound like it's the kind of self-indulgent writing that just makes my eyes glaze over. Like Richard Powers. I read so many reviews of his books that sounded so awesome, and when I finally read one, it was like a longer-winded and cut-rate Tom Robbins with even less plot.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 1:53 PM
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96: "Consider The Lobster" would have been a great essay if DFW had had an editor.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 2:02 PM
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Ultimately, after the initial shock of reaching the end of the final page and exclaiming "That's it???!!!!" wore off, I found that I didn't care whether IJ didn't have an ending (which may or may not have been intentional and integral to the meaning of the work), or whether it had an obscure hidden ending (which may or may not have sucked qua ending), or whether DFW just didn't know how to end it, because all in all it was a hell of a ride.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 2:03 PM
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Also, if we're talking essayists now, I would just like to say once again, fuck a bunch of Janet Malcolm.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 2:04 PM
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which may or may not have been intentional and integral to the meaning of the work

I ain't one of you literature people, and I don't want to spoil the ending, but holy shit of course it was integral to the meaning of the work. What's the title of that book again?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 2:50 PM
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While we're getting our literary opinions out, can someone explain to me what Pynchon's Inherent Vice had going for it that The Big Lebowski didn't do funnier and more efficiently?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 2:50 PM
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I completely agree with 50 - it seemed like a tendentious argument getting across through brilliant prose (thus appearing to be a brilliant argument).

AB has a serious commitment to completing books, but IIRC she bailed on The Corrections, and didn't even consider picking up Freedom.

My sense of Chabon relative to Franzen and DFW is that he actually has an interest in telling a story, and the brilliant prose is incidental. The other two are more about Creating A Literary Experience (I should note here that I don't mean that to be damning; Literary Experiences can be very rewarding, just like some rock operas are enjoyable). But I haven't read enough of the latter two to feel confident in that characterization. Although 93 makes me feel more so. It's like one of those unintentionally revealing defenses: "But you're not supposed to like the food at that restaurant; that's the whole point!"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:02 PM
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I completely agree with 50 - it seemed like a tendentious argument getting across through brilliant prose (thus appearing to be a brilliant argument).

AB has a serious commitment to completing books, but IIRC she bailed on The Corrections, and didn't even consider picking up Freedom.

My sense of Chabon relative to Franzen and DFW is that he actually has an interest in telling a story, and the brilliant prose is incidental. The other two are more about Creating A Literary Experience (I should note here that I don't mean that to be damning; Literary Experiences can be very rewarding, just like some rock operas are enjoyable). But I haven't read enough of the latter two to feel confident in that characterization. Although 93 makes me feel more so. It's like one of those unintentionally revealing defenses: "But you're not supposed to like the food at that restaurant; that's the whole point!"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:02 PM
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Augh! I didn't do that!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:02 PM
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Maria Bustillos gives Jonathan Franzen a little sympathetic heck. She's a little too kind, but there's an appropriate defense in there.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:04 PM
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Yes you did! Twice!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:04 PM
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I love Pynchon to bits anyway, butthis made me love him more.

(No spoilers on whether he wrote an ending for Against The Day, I'm only a third of the way through: I know it's not his strong point either...)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:10 PM
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106 -- More cartoonish villains?

(I may be misremembering.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:12 PM
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74: Hi k-sky!

Also, 74.1:

I'm scootching my chair a little further away from you as I type this.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:14 PM
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112 -- Well known warrior and statesman.

I just wanted to write that out.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:15 PM
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105: The fact that it was integral to the book made me hate it more. I liked the book, but the ending sucks.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:16 PM
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Imma say one maybe-controversial thing, then take off:

Inspired by my 107.3, and bolstered by my 108.3, I'm starting to think that Literary Fiction that isn't genre-ish makes me suspicious: if you're an entitled white guy writing another fucking story about entitled people and their feeeelings, fuck right the fuck off. Genre forces Entitled Literary Dude to actually tell a story with some pace and plot, even if he wants to putz around with Thoughtful Digressions (I'll admit that I'm thinking of Moby-Dick here as much as anything). And it's certainly possible to tell a story with pace and plot that's not genre, but then it's easier to get away with dropping those and writing masturbatory prose. Eugenides does it well in The Virgin Suicides with this driving tale of the titular sisters, and then in Middlesex with this device of hermaphrodity that doesn't exactly drive the story, but provides form and theme and at least some direct plot (also plot: close link with Detroit history).

But so much of Literary Novels is just wanking. I blame Updike.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:18 PM
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My taste in books is very much middlebrow and uncritical (and thank to the link in 2, I now have accurate descriptors). I liked The Corrections, but really didn't like Freedom. The former was a decent skewering of a UMC Midwest family; the latter read like Frantzen was having a midlife crisis. I don't think he had much to say about liberal guilt, and I was kind of appalled at how terrible the sex scenes were. I ended up wondering how lousy Frantzen's sex life must be based on several unfortunately executed scenes. I guess he can cry himself to sleep on his piles of money.

I had the total rage response to finishing Gravity's Rainbow but not IJ. G's R took me longer to slog through than IJ with less payoff.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:19 PM
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The first of the books under discussion that I have read, but I didn't get the appeal.

Boy are NickS and I from different planets. I just wanted to chime in with some love for AVftGS. In some ways it was remarkable how little it pissed me off or alienated me, because I read the first few pages with the sinking feeling that I was going to be reading a story about a female New Yorker who I obviously had a lot in common with, but I was going to think she was shallow and whiny, and seeing a funhouse mirror version of myself was only going to piss me off, the way I reacted to the Amy Adams character in Julie and Julia, for instance. Instead, as the book went on, I was like, this character is very similar to me! And she's not hateful at all! She's flawed and sympathetic! That's a special treat in fiction. It's also cool that The Keep is such a boring trifle of a book. (I just read it and realized that I think I'd read the whole thing before, but it was so forgettable that I'd never been sure.) It's really heartening to see someone progress from producing crap to producing something great.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:26 PM
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I actually very much enjoyed The Keep. And AVftGS. (But the brow, it middles.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:33 PM
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118.1 is true and funny.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:35 PM
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You know what book I really liked, that I bet JRoth would think was utterly masturbatory shit? I will tell you. It is Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 3:37 PM
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A great deal of this sort of botheration could be avoided by sticking to my principle of not reading "serious" books by authors who are still around to give interviews, promote themselves, blog, tweet, get MFAs, live in Brooklyn, etc., etc.

I suppose I'll make an exception for Tim Winton's new book, but he lives in the back forty of Aussie nowhere.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 4:05 PM
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So Australia is going to save us? Oddly enough, the most amazingly bad work of contemporary fiction I've ever read through to the end was "Seven Types of Ambiguity," the shame of Melbourne. I still haven't read the latest Coetzee, although I did recently read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which raises the bar far higher than anyone else has, to my knowledge, been able to envision it.

I reluctantly endorse 123.1 with exceptions for family and close friends.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 4:26 PM
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124: Seven Types of Ambiguity was terrible. It was recommended to me under the most romantic circumstances imaginable -- I was at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, and I was looking for Cloud Atlas. They were out of stock, so I asked the clerk to recommend a book. She recommended Cloud Atlas. When I said they were out, she recommended Seven Types of Ambiguity. Under those circumstances, how could it not be great? But it was not.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 4:36 PM
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Most overpraised contemporary litfic novel I've read recently was Peter Nadas' Parallel Lives. Or rather I read about two thirds into the huge tome. Ugh. I had read stuff wildly praising the book, I remembered liking Nadas' Book of Memories so I picked it up. Not Recommended.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 5:17 PM
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OMG, someone else has read it. Did you get the clerk fired?


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 5:18 PM
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127 to 125, but a little bit to 126 as well. Nadas certainly is overrated, or was during the successive 15-minute periods of small numbers of critics raving about those two books. But I didn't like A Book of Memories enough to go further. I tried: I bought the book new, sold it to a used bookstore in disgust, mellowed, bought it back and tried again for 200 pages, then finally resold it a second time. Then I saw it a few weeks later with a new reader and it looked really happy, almost like the good book it had always hoped to be; I realized then that it was my fault, and I was never able to help it with its transformation. I smiled at it, but I don't think it saw me. It's probably on Facebook now, but I never check.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 5:28 PM
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he's a cunt.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 5:52 PM
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26: Is Franzen wrong about Amazon, and the prevalence of touts there and elsewhere?

No, I don't think so. For those disinclined to read the longer 6,500 word Franzen piece on Kraus, the Guardian has a shorter piece outlining the substance of his charge against Amazon.

I'm with lw in 44: There's a lot about the internet which has damaged publishing, and the likelihood that Amazon will be a major publisher does not look to me like much of an improvement.

Think about the circularity involved in Amazon's publishing/self-publishing model, described by Franzen so:

Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world.

You have: book published on/by/via Amazon; reviewers paid to provide 5-star reviews -- on Amazon. Plethora of 5-star reviews leads to a bumping up of the book's star rating -- on Amazon. Due to this, more people buy book, on Amazon, which leads to the book's sales rank increasing, on Amazon, which leads to an entirely artificial promotion and sale of some thing published on Amazon, whether or not it's actually a good piece of writing. (It's pretty fucking brilliant on Amazon's part, an almost entirely self-contained system, but I don't see how it's helpful in any way to literature, or writing, if you don't like the l-word.)

Franzen is a member of the Authors Guild, and has been writing complaints along these lines for a few years now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 5:59 PM
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He's a legitimate writer though.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:15 PM
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I'm not going to read the thread, because I'm tradish like that: dicklit.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:19 PM
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Amazon will point you toward handy guides to promoting your book - on Amazon


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:21 PM
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And, quelle surprise, there are companies specializing in promoting your book on Amazon. It's a pretty obvious start-up idea, after all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:26 PM
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None of this means that Franzen isn't whiny, you realize, but I'd separate the things he's legitimately annoyed with from those he's just flat-out whiny over.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:32 PM
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Oh, I just noticed that the thing linked in 134, for Strategic Book Group, has the subtitle, or motto or something, "Amazon Optimization".

I hate to natter on, but I hope the point is clear: this isn't about promoting your book as a good book.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 6:39 PM
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110: Thanks for that link to Maria Bustillos. She was one of the founders of the principal antiquarian-and-used book sellers' discussion list still robust and active (the same list that linked and discussed the Franzen piece several days ago, sans snark). It's good to see her.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 7:11 PM
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That Slate piece is ridiculous. A wilful misreading of Franzen's article in order to score cheap points in Slate's daily stupidly-contrarian-link-bait competition.

(But I really liked The Corrections, so).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 8:16 PM
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I really liked The Corrections but it's been a long time and I don't remember exactly why.

am likely to read more Chekhov

Oh hey I'm going to see if I can get through The Cherry Orchard in Russian on the train maybe.

As to Infinite Jest it didn't seem to want to be read by me and after about 200 pages we achieved comity. It would be funny and strange and interesting for twenty pages and then lapse into WTFery for longer than I was prepared to hang in there for. I also made this huge mistake at the beginning where I assumed the boys at the tennis thing would be interchangeable and didn't bother to learn their names. This did not help.

Also Josh is Wrong On The Internet about Janet Malcolm.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 09-20-13 9:57 PM
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127: She can't have terrible taste in general, though, right? I later actually read Cloud Atlas, which is good.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 1:46 AM
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People can like certain individual good things and still have terrible taste in general.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 1:54 AM
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I thought Gravity's Rainbow was pretty good, but I did struggle to finish it. It's one of those books that I read and re-read the first half-to-two-thirds of, before getting distracted by other things, and then coming back to again. I read it in my late teens, after I'd read the Crying of Lot 49, and after I'd read Vineland, which I think was the first of his I'd read. To be honest, I preferred V, and ...Lot 49, and Vineland. I quite fancy his new one, judging by the reviews, since it seems more in the Vineland sort of vein, than Mason Dixon which I didn't finish. I'm not big on the sprawling picaresque.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:26 AM
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Odd, looking at the Wiki article on Pynchon, he wrote the liner notes to a Spike Jones compilation album that came out in the 90s. I have that album, and had never noticed that Pynchon wrote the notes.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:33 AM
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V: I never get on with it, too much beatnikery for my tastes I think.
tCoL49: too "perfectly formed", and I used to find the pop group stuff annoying (tho I'm a lot less territorial about that kind of thing now; I should re-read).
GR: for many years my favourite -- then I made the mistake of reading a book which explained in detail where all the various ideas were from, which spoiled it for me a bit, I don't know why.
VL: Love it, though I've encountered pushback when I say so. For its mood as much as anything -- sun-kissed California melancholy (tCoL49 is a bit too brittle and Didionesque, somehow), and a really sweet father-daughter relationship.
M&D: My favourite since I first read it. Packed full of stuff that makes haters visibly bristle when you enthuse about it (the Learnéd Dog, the Mechanickal Duck, the Sterne-style punctuation).
AtD: a third of the way through, really really enjoying it.
IV: haven't read yet
BE: haven't bought yet


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:57 AM
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Vineland is easily my favorite and also the first one I read. In general ttaM's tastes and experience mirrors mine quite closely. The new one is fun so far.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 4:10 AM
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V: Enjoyed it a lot, though I read it after tCoL49, which may have helped.
tCoL49: Lots of fun.
GR: Possibly my favourite novel in English of the 20th century.
VL: Disappointed.
M&D: OK. A bit "worthy".
AtD: Not read it.
IV: Unputdownable.
BE: Sitting on my kindle waiting for me to feel strong enough.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 5:01 AM
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(I've mentioned this on the internet before, though not here I don't think: my copy of GR, a Picador pb edn from the late 70s, is itself now so bound up in the forces of entropy that I have to keep it in a plastic bag. And pleasingly -- form mimics content -- it has come to bits from the back rather than the front: cover gone, pages loose and crumbling...)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 5:18 AM
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re: 144/145 Yeah, I like Vineland a lot, even though critical opinion on it was mixed.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:25 AM
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Incidentally, I notice that BW@CT proclaimeth:

Now I will speak my part, and then fall silent, except for the part about where we get into a huge argument in comments because I think pretty much all the Important Male Novelists of the mid to late 20th-century are such sexist dillweeds that it is actually impossible to enjoy the books. For me. Except William S. Burroughs, and that is because he does not want to sex chicks up. Not even a little bit.

I'm inclined to endorse this judgment in general, but I feel that Pynchon, although his books are perhaps redundantly sexualised, is actually less offensively sexist than most of his peers. Am I right, or am I giving him half a pass because I love his writing? Can somebody put me straight?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:29 AM
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If we are on about Pynchon, I forget if I had previously linked this recent "backgrounder" on Pynchon with a lot of random biographical info somewhat in the vein of Jules Siegel's "Who Is Thomas Pynchon ... and Why Did He Take Off With My Wife?"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:44 AM
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I found Inherent Vice to be a serious candidate for worst book I have ever read by an author I admired. I'm annoyed that I finished it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:45 AM
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My magnum opus is going to be an alternative literary history where it is Thomas Pynchon who is killed in a motorcycle crash the day his book is published rather than Richard Fariña. Not that the books would have been better in any literary sense, but the world might have been better.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:51 AM
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We're talking micro-mouse orgasms of course.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 6:51 AM
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Let me be the first to trash Middlesex as a book which had for me had the most severe downward trajectory from a promising opening* that I can recall. I quit reading it in extreme contempt at the end of the Detroit riot stuff. Utter stupidly manipulative crap poorly executed. A horror of a writer to be actively shunned and attacked. It made the theme of black-white relations in the movie version of Benjamin Button look subtle. Maybe a Günter Grass could have pulled off that book, but can't even bother to recall the writer's name sure as hell could not.

*Although a lot of the Smyrna stuff was sucky and in retrospect more sucky and if I knew more about the actual history I'm sure it would have been suckier still.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:04 AM
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Based on the one novel Fariña did publish -- which I read bcz everyone said "Pynchon Pynchon" -- I say hmmmm. Bcz I don't really enjoy Pynchon's first that much. What about if it was Dylan that died on a motocycle and Fariña went on to be the rockstar traitor to folk music?

Taking sides: "Reflections on a Crystal Wind" vs "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me".

Actually you could write a vast Pynchon-esque multiple-worlds time-jumbly epic in which all the various important people who did or didn't die on bikes and planes and in fast cars didn't or did and swapped places or whatever. You could call it Infinite Airbag


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:09 AM
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s/b which I read bcz everyone said "Pynchon Pynchon" and didn't think much of


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:11 AM
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So far in this book Pynchon has used "tarball" correctly and explained Benford's Law. Not bad for a not obviously technical septuagenarian.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:21 AM
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And to respond to chris y: BW's added to her comment in response to someone, and includes Pynchon in the second response, as a male writer she was including on her list of disabling sexism (for her as a reader)., albeit a good writer, which she doesn't think Franzen is. As of GR, I I think he began to get better with woman characters (and has continued to)*: but I suspect that this *was* some of my problem with V especially (it's part of what I meant by beatnikery), and tCoL49, reading them when I did. I should reread. Oedipa Maas has a great name, but I can't recall a thing about her.

*They still probably fall into a smaller range of possibility than the male characters, though (up to a third of the way into AtD, that is).


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:23 AM
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I read "Been Down So Long..." when I was 16 or 17, and looking back that was exactly the right age. I don't think I could read it now. I'd never heard of Pynchon at the time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:24 AM
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157: Isn't he obviously technical? Isn't that part of his schtick?

154: I had the same reaction to Middlesex.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:25 AM
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Odd, looking at the Wiki article on Pynchon, he wrote the liner notes to a Spike Jones compilation album that came out in the 90s. I have that album, and had never noticed that Pynchon wrote the notes.

Also one of the albums by boring New York alterna-power-pop band Lotion. Equally confounding.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:27 AM
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155.1: Yes, that would work better. Or one where the Byrds chose to cover Ochs rather than Dylan...

155.last: Better yet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:29 AM
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Actually you could write a vast Pynchon-esque multiple-worlds time-jumbly epic in which all the various important people who did or didn't die on bikes and planes and in fast cars didn't or did and swapped places or whatever. You could call it Infinite Airbag

Like one of Kim Newman's Dracula universe* books, or Philip Jose Farmer. I'd read it.

* some of which do have a bit of that, with undead Anita Ekberg and the like.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:35 AM
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The Spike Jones sleevenotes aren't confounding at all: kazoos!

I think someone in Lotion was dating someone he was related to -- this was the in-industry skinny, anyway. When I ran a little music magazine (around that time), one of my contributors claimed to have a good connection to him (via his UK publishers, I think) and asked me if I'd like him to write for the mag. I think I said YES (I hope I said YES), but obviously it never happened.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:36 AM
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re: 164.last

It's not confounding he did it, I suppose. Confounding that I've had that album for years and never noticed. It's the only Spike Jones album I have.*

* it was also going to be our choice for wedding music before we crapped out and went for something less likely to annoy the registrar.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:38 AM
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160.1: I guess? His familiarity with the folkways of late 90s web development is thus far unassailable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:39 AM
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Clifford Brown lives; Miles Davis dies.
Buddy Holly lives; Elvis dies.
Duane Allman lives; Clapton dies.
Hendrix lives; Keith Richards dies.

Now describe the musical soundtrack to a narrative set in 1985.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:42 AM
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166. You've probably known him by pseud for 15 years.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:43 AM
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167: the musical soundtrack resembles Kraftwerk

(sorry, couldn't resist)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:45 AM
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If cDc shows up in this book I truly won't know how to feel.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:45 AM
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Hendrix lives; Keith Richards dies.

An improvement, I think.

In fact, on almost all of those except Clifford Brown, an improvement.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:48 AM
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171. They were intended to be an improvement. I have a very soft spot for Clifford. Whether he'd have been able to do anything as mind blowing as Miles did in the 60s I don't know, but I'm pretty sure he was technically better.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:53 AM
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Holy shit. He just name-checked Back Orifice.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 7:58 AM
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120: heebs, I have middlebrow tastes in everything, too, except in music where I'm probably more middle-low, if company makes you feel any better. I just have exacting middlebrow taste in books. I think the only area where I have highbrow tastes or values is descriptivist grammar. I think we should be proud of our middling brows.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 8:03 AM
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You said you wanted cDc references.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 8:03 AM
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oops. 'twas me.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 8:04 AM
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175: I said I wouldn't know how to feel... and I don't!

He seems a little confused about what BO actually does, but that's okay.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 8:20 AM
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171.last is true.

Rock Hudson dies in an automobile accident in 1955. James Dean dies of AIDS in 1985.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 9:33 AM
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re: 172

Yeah. I think the consensus is that Davis was never among the most gifted technically (although better than he's sometimes painted). He was no Fat Navarro, or Brown, or Roy Eldridge or (later) Lee Morgan. I don't know if Brown or Navarro would have done what Davis did in terms of innovation, though. Beginning, even, with the nonet in the late 40s.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:31 AM
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Abbie Hoffman OD's, Emmett Grogan goes underground
Eldridge Cleaver assassinated, Fred Hampton goes into exile
Angela Davis/Assata Shakur
Milk/Feinstein
RFK/Nixon (obvs)
Deng Xiaoping/Zhou Enlai


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:46 AM
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re: 172

Have you seen this? With Navarro, Davis, Parker, etc? The identification of each soloist is fun. Particularly the trumpets.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZo0Oy9QEwA



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:50 AM
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I've never really understood the appeal of Keith Richards for that matter.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:51 AM
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180 is interesting, especially the last one. Davis and Shakur are both alive and well, surely?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:52 AM
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Fist bump, bro hug to 154 and 161.1. God I hate that book.

This thread is inspiring me to go and get the new Pynchon, it's been years now since I read contemporary lit fic within a year of its release. I love CoL49 and GR, but haven't read any of TP's output since Vineland, which I liked a lot )but read a loooong time ago, probably to young for it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:56 AM
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183: Yeah, but Shakur is still in exile in Cuba, last I heard. May be the one with the least impact.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:57 AM
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Could do Weatherman/SLA or People's Temple/Hare Krishna instead.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 10:59 AM
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181. That's fun. I hadn't come across it. Thanks.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:00 AM
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181 -- holy crap

Surely people like Keith as a songwriter-arranger and impressive drug culture survivor, not strictly as a player, right


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:03 AM
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186. I'd be less parochial and offer Dutschke/Cohn-Bendit.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:04 AM
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re: 188

Yeah. I don't get the drug culture thing, I suppose, and I'm not a big Stones fan. Couple of good albums, couple of good songs not from those albums, decades of dross.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:05 AM
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189: That's a good one. I suspect Dutschke would have wound up just as much of a sell-out though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:08 AM
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Yes, the Stones had a very short, high three album peak, but (since you have to add in everything from after 1973) look absolutely terrible on an output/production year basis (it'd be interesting to think about the comparable baseball player).

Although I saw them in 2006(?) or so, expecting them to be totally terrible and the show to be unbearable, and they were kind of great. In a Vegas showman kind of way, not incredible musically at all but just awesome pros with a great cheesy fun stage presence.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:26 AM
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And some pretty good tunes in the late 70s, I'd say. I've never seen them, but folks here are still talking about their 2006 concert.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 11:48 AM
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I love 80s stones. Like beast of burden, waiting on a friend, mixed emotions, etc. It's so...washed out, in a way that I enjoy. Kind of hollow.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 12:41 PM
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194 I was thinking of the Some Girls and Emotional Rescue albums, so there's probably some serious comity here.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 12:55 PM
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Yes, the Stones had a very short, high three album peak, but (since you have to add in everything from after 1973) look absolutely terrible on an output/production year basis (it'd be interesting to think about the comparable baseball player).

Somehow I now have the image that the athlete equivalent of the Rolling Stones is Tony Womack.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 1:22 PM
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164.last - According to this gossip rag, Pynchon did it as a favor to the drummer's mother, who was Lotion's drummer. The more you know!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 2:30 PM
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Oh, Middlesex. I'm always saying I started things and did not finish them but I was just so allergic to the authorial voice, I couldn't go on. Once I was on an Amtrak train and this guy mentioned that he lived off the grid and I made the rookie mistake of saying "huh, why do you want to live off the grid?" Half an hour of stuff about the gold standard and god knows what all else later, I just got up and walked away and he just kept on talking, perhaps forever. Middlesex makes me think of that. I felt talked at. This is perhaps a very idiotic critique of a novel.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 2:35 PM
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197 - That should be "...who was his accountant". We apologize for the inconvenience.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 2:51 PM
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Not bad for a not obviously technical septuagenarian.

Or maybe "Thomas Pynchon" is a handle passed down from master to disciple, and the person currently writing as Thomas Pynchon is not the same person who wrote V..


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:04 PM
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It turns out the new Wong Kar-Wai movie (The Grandmaster) is some kind of ode to fluid dynamics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:08 PM
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Re:200

Heh. Or a kind of Tom Pynchon's Op-Center deal.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:22 PM
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192: Yes, the Stones had a very short, high three album peak

I don't think this is very accurate characterization of the Stones, given the number of well-known songs that preceded that period (I'm assuming Let it Bleed/Sticky/Fingers/Exile). The first Hot Rocks compilation really does capture the whole classic period well (and is it their best selling album although I just learned they did not authorize it or have anything to do with its release).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:26 PM
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Yes, fair enough, that was more of a personal taste than a consensus view. For me personally, while admitting that Paint It Black and Satisfaction and a few others are objectively extremely good rock and roll songs, I can pretty much take or leave the Brian Jones and Ron Wood eras, but love love love the Mick Taylor era albums.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 3:57 PM
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I recently sort-of-horrified a friend when we were in a bookstore and I revealed that I've basically read no literature of the past 50 or so years. I'm pretty sure I haven't read a single book mentioned in this thread.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 4:19 PM
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I'm pretty sure I haven't read a single book mentioned in this thread.

I'm quite certain I haven't. Solidarity.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 4:21 PM
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Incidentally, I just read the Belle Waring post about Franzen on CT and it is both entertaining and master-class level trolling. I'm impressed (easy for me to say, I suppose, since I have no personal investment, either pro or anti the literature being described).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 4:33 PM
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201: Quite a splashy trailer.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09-21-13 5:02 PM
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This thread is making me feel better about not having read Murakami.

My sister knows Franzen in a professional setting, and IIRC says he is personally nice, which is more than can be said for many authors. He comes off as a dick in the essay posted though. I started the Corrections, but couldn't bring myself to keep on. It seemed like yet another novel on academia with unsympathetic characters treating each other poorly and getting screwed over. If I want to be depressed by my literature I'll stick to Russian or Chinese literature.

On a slightly different topic, although Franzen was a culprit in the essay excerpt quoted, one of my biggest pet peeves are when American English speakers write "grey." It is "gray." If you are using American spelling conventions at all other times, it is pretentious and wrong to write "grey," and the word stands out like nails on a chalkboard. Since the frequency of 'grey' in American English appears to be increasing I am probably on the losing side of language change here, but I am going to be a curmudgeonly ass fight the good fight as long as possible. Don't get me started on plural possessives and adverbs....


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 1:16 AM
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In American English, the color is "gray". "Grey" is the name for the gray aliens that secretly control our lives. Franzen understands this, as does Smearcase's interlocutor from 198.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 1:32 AM
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re: 204

Yeah, that's pretty much my view, too. My parents had the Hot Rocks LP, and Beggar's Banquet and a few others of the 'Jones' era albums, so I grew up occasionally listening to them. It's still only really the Taylor albums I like, with a scattering of songs from earlier and later.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 1:40 AM
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[U]ndead Anita Ekberg and the like.

Go on.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 6:44 AM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula_Cha_Cha_Cha

Recently republished after a while out of print. The whole series is fun.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 7:57 AM
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If you are using American spelling conventions at all other times, it is pretentious and wrong to write "grey," and the word stands out like nails on a chalkboard.

Oh no. I apologize in advance, then, because I'm stuck on "grey" and don't want to change: "gray" just looks less pleasing to me. But I can trade you a "grey" for a sentence beginning with "So", with no complaint.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-22-13 11:01 AM
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Jesus fuck the new Slate homepage redesign. How the hell am I supposed to find Doonesbury?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 5:19 AM
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Not that it isn't still in reruns anyway.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 5:20 AM
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New Doonesbury strips are still being made?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 5:32 AM
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This annoys me in more than one way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 5:38 AM
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219: Apparently not, it's been in reruns all summer.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 6:12 AM
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Canadians. What can you do?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 6:21 AM
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217: doonesbury.com


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 6:35 AM
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Hilariously enough, when I go to the new Slate for the first time, one of the five things they have big arrows pointing to, so people know where they are, is Doonesbury. They know that's what people over 55 years old come to see!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 7:53 AM
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I didn't see that arrow. Probably because I am on a somewhat crap connection in the third world. Seems like web designers don't care about bandwidth-hogging web pages that take forever to load anymore.

Actually, no... I see the thing now. I suspect the page was just broken when I first went to it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-13 8:10 AM
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