Franzen essay on david foster wallace

However, people were talking about Jonathan Franzen not because he has another novel coming out though The End of the Earth , his new essay collection, was released last week. They were not talking about him because he wrote another article about how much he loves looking at birds though I can only assume The End of the Earth will definitely have like four essays somehow related to birds , nor were they talking about him because he was the the subject of yet another profile where he took the interviewer to go look at birds though, curiously enough, he actually was the subject of such a profile this week.

People who want to be famous writers like reading such lists because they tease at some sort of roadmap, however obtuse or unilluminating, for how to become a famous writer.

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Anyways, you should not follow Jonathan Franzen's Writing Rules literally or dogmatically. But, as we have established, no short list of rules for writing should ever be followed literally or dogmatically.


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Writing is the sort of thing that you can never perfect — it takes years of reading and writing and submitting and having your submissions rejected and then isolation and overcoming crippling self-doubt just to become a not-completely-terrible writer, so no list, no matter how fantastic it is, will serve as an end-around to what is ultimately a life-shorteningly excruciating process of trial and error.

Jonathan Franzen knows this, and yet he also knows that he would like people to buy his new book of essays, and so, he dutifully assembled his list of Writing Rules. At this point, the interplay between Franzen and the online hordes seems almost symbiotic.

David Foster Wallace: An Elegy by Jonathan Franzen

The literary internet likes having a punching bag to help itself forget that everything both inside and outside the literary internet is terrible. Or, what do you call them, Wells, or various nexes. Not just of interest but of quality. And then things get real interesting. And we will beg for those things to be there.

The Internet is composed, Soylent Green-style, of people—formerly atomized humans who, through their updates and posts and curiosities and contributions and selfies, are transforming themselves into media. We are just now figuring out what that might mean when it comes to the interplay of commercialism and human connection—the relationship that preoccupied Wallace in his writing.

What this means is that we, the public, have access to our authors—as people, rather than personas—in ways we never did before. What it also means is that we are, more often than we were before, confronted with their humanity. Or, put less sweepingly, with their banality.

‘It began when Wallace wrote Franzen a fan letter in the summer of 1988’

We see them being … them. That could be a very minor thing, or it could be a very major one.

And that has meant that we have tended to prioritize the things people contributed over the kinds of people they were. Was Shakespeare kind of a douche?

The Wallace Effect - Bloomsbury Literary Studies Blog

Was Jane Austen sort of awkward? Was Wittgenstein a total delight at dinner parties? But that is, perhaps, simply an accident of history. Being an author in the age of Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr might mean something very different from what being an author meant in, and to, previous eras—something more conversational, more collaborative, more communal.

America’s new literary generation

The death of the author , if you buy into that stuff, may be giving way to something at once more hopeful and more sad: the diffusion of the author.