I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

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12 September 2006

First Impressions, Second Impressions

A week ago today, I happened to tune in to the Fresh Air episode.Terry Gross was interviewing Jonathan Franzen (he of The Corrections fame).

Now sometimes, we find we have underestimated a person. Maybe they didn’t make a good first impression (*nasally:*‘I don’t want my book on the Oprah Book Club* because it will attract the wrong kind of readership’-- Oh really, why? Because you are all that? Well, bub, maybe you think you are all that, but in reality...

[sorry, I got carried away]). They may not have realized the impact of their words or actions (Oprah cancels her on-screen book club). And, when we look at their product, we find it over the top and uncreative at the same time. The Corrections was so bad I didn’t even finish it. It wasn’t that no one was a sympathetic character (none of them were sympathetic, but that can be OK in good writing), it was just that my suspension of disbelief was strained too many times (and yes, I know Coleridge probably wishes he never said that).

Now he’s come out with a new book. A memoir (“Oh my god he’s so brave! After the James Frey fiasco!”). How wonderful to have a chance to revisit this writer, Jonathan Frazen.

After listening to the interview, I can now say that, yes, his first impression sucked, and you know what? It was spot on.

What a self-important airbag. He speaks…with that typical…elisionary style of… pompous academics everywhere… And I wonder—you know, really wonder—if he literally… understands that… he is an example (literally).. of all… that is wrong in literary studies…in this day and age (he is a prime example of why I decided I would not waste any of my time getting a PhD in Literature).

If you feel like shouting at the radio (or your computer), then by all means listen to the interview. It was therapeutic—literally—for me.

*Not that I ever followed the Oprah thing. I don’t watch it, and the books she picked seemed always so “of the moment” and about the tortured lives of weak women. She’s Come Undone was a perfect example. I did read that one, and I didn’t like the fact that as soon as it looked like life was getting better – BAM! – the main character would be taken for a ride by another predatory male. And I didn’t like the fact that so many people would comment, “I can’t believe a man wrote it! He really knows what it’s like to be a woman! It’s unbelievable!” Not it isn’t, and he doesn’t. In my opinion, anyway. And isn’t that a sexist comment, anyway? Any good writer should be able to pull that off. But in any event, the Oprah Book Club got people reading, and, to paraphrase another Lady of the Airwaves, that is definitely "a good thing."