- MAGNUM NOPE-US!
You don't know it, but I am currently doing you the biggest favor ever: I'm reading Jonathan Franzen's new tome, Purity... so that you don't have to! Purity is about what you'd expect from a guy who loooooves literary realism and writing books named after abstract concepts rendered meaningless by speeches from presidential candidates and right-wing fixations on chastity. Purity is also the reason J-Franz gave for wanting to adopt a human child as research into the psyches of young people, as previously, heroically reported on this very blog.
Which, like, waitaminute. I can't say FOR SURE that Jonathan Franzen did NOT emerge from his father's head, fully grown and wearing beautiful armor, but I am probably guessing that he was once... a youth! Could he not merely look back upon his own time as a young person? Are those of us who were born in the late '80s truly such a mystery?
If Purity is any evidence, yes. Yes, we are truly an enigma. I haven't finished the book yet (pray for me!) but so far, J-Franz's clear disdain for his ostensible protagonist smarts of "Oh, YOU KIDS!" angry old man syndrome. And not in a goofy or fun way. In a kind of scary way? Anyhow, you can bet your Freedom first-editions Franzen's book will still be heaped with effusive praise, because in today's literary world, if your name is Jonathan* and you have written a book, lo, you have written The Great American Novel.
To offset that lavish praise for thoroughly dull writing, I recommend revisiting this round-up of what really mars Franzen's work: oh, just terrible, bad-erotica-adjacent sex writing. You've been warned! (Especially if you're a lady or can only chuckle bemusedly at the phrase, "Connie had a wry, compact intelligence, a firm little clitoris of discernment." Yikes!)
There's also this nastiness, wherein he told novelist Jennifer Weiner Twitter wasn't the appropriate avenue for serious critique of gender bias in publishing. Because who would know better than J-Franz?
I rest my case. Back to my Purity prison!
*In fairness, Lethem is okay by me.