Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Jonathan Franzen and the Glorious Post-Human Future

The cover story in Time this week is by me. It’s a profile of Jonathan Franzen, a novelist who is of great interest to me.

The Corrections was kind of a totem for me while I was writing The Magicians. It was a transitional love object, like a teddy bear — I didn’t like to write without my copy of it handy.

That and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I put one on one side of my desk, one on the other, and wrote The Magicians in the weird magneto-literary field they generated between them.

Franzen has a new novel coming out, his first since The Corrections, which was in 2001. (Weirdly it came out practically on September 11th.) It’s called Freedom. It’s good. Franzen writes in a close-third-person style that basically to me is the state of the goddamned art for literary prose.

My profile of Franzen is online, or rather about an eighth of it is online. The whole thing is in the print magazine, and I think you can get it on the iPad too, but on the web it is concealed behind a “paywall,” which at this point is more wall than pay. Top-flight mad-scientist infrastructure engineers at Time Inc. are even now attempting to “enable” “online” “credit-card transactions” that would allow visitors to “pay” to read my profile of Franzen. Fools! Your pride challenges the gods themselves!

I only write the cover story once or twice a year, and when I do it’s never a books story. So it’s a nice milestone for me.

Now I’m in San Francisco at the Singularity Summit, where nanobots are making me immortal. At this point I would settle for online credit-card transactions.

Vancouver after that.

8 comments on “Jonathan Franzen and the Glorious Post-Human Future

  1. K.M. Walton says:

    YOUR book, fine sir, has influenced me a great deal as a writer. I can’t tell you how many times I marveled, mouth agape, at your style as I read THE MAGICIANS.

    Kudos on your cover piece. I look forward to reading it.

  2. M says:

    tried to buy it at the local bookstore, apparently our version isn’t the same


    Vancouver canada or Vancouver washington?

  3. Leverus says:

    Canada. That’s weird, I thought we stopped doing a separate Canadian edition.

  4. amybillingham says:

    I really enjoyed your cover story (and did a little silent cheer when I read the “elitist pricks” line). I especially liked the parts about Franzen’s relationship with Wallace, and the thoughts you and JF had about freedom.

    Makes me interested in reading a book to which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise been drawn. (Which I suppose is your goal with these things, so… good job!)

    I haven’t read any other Franzen books, would you recommend I start with Freedom, or go back to The Corrections? (Or since I’m from St. Louis, maybe the 27th City?)

  5. M Blockley says:

    Saw it in the Oslo airport yesterday. My self-improvement project is to read Die Korrekturen.

  6. M Blockley says:

    oh, and will be very interested to see what you make of Ray Kurzweil, with whose writings I was very infatuated with in the late eighties.

  7. Estrusk says:

    Congratulations, sir, on a very well written piece. In fact, it inspired me to actually purchase the first copy of a periodical I’ve purchased in quite a while. (I will admit, however, that about 45% of the impetus came from that photo of Wallace.)

  8. K Bull says:

    I picked up this particular copy of Time that was atop a heaping pile of magazines/catalogs/newspapers in the front room of my family’s Northern Michigan cottage over the weekend. There was not much I found interesting in the magazine, but I read your profile of Franzen from start to finish. Having never read any of Franzen’s work, nor having ever heard of you (sorry!) I am now an ever-after fan of both. I picked up a copy of The Corrections at the airport Sunday night; I have your blog bookmarked and am seeking out copies of your prose. I am disappointed that I can’t find a copy of the article online, as I wanted to forward it on to a few literary friends. Great writing.

Leave a Reply