DeLillo-ness.

I went to see Jonathan Franzen read last at Tulane. He said it had been twenty-six months since he’d written fiction, and it was killing him. I could not imagine what that would be like. Sympathy for the Franzen.

Afterward I went to dinner with three other people who are readers, and also writers in some capacity (a publicist, a curator, a graduate student) for a living, and we talked about what he said for a long time. We all liked his work. For me, The Corrections was an extremely instructional book, and definitely came to me at an important time, when I was drafting The Middlesteins. Jim said he quit smoking because of an essay of Franzen’s. Rien said he could read his non-fiction forever. Miranda loves his novels. I was the only one who had read that Edith Wharton piece, though I suspect they might have shrugged it off when holding it up against his larger works.

He gave us a great dinner conversation, so thanks Mr. Franzen!

Below are some of the notes I took, and also, in one area, my thoughts on it.

On sex writing:

“If you write with any kind of specificity, there’s only a limited number of things you can do to a person. There’s even a limited number of animals you can do things to…it’s easier to write about bad sex than good sex, just like it’s easier to be funny than moving.”

On Revolutionary Road:

“[It's] dishonestly bleak. The world is bleak, but not as falsely bleak as the way that book ends.”

On endings:

“I am committed to closure. I am committed to endings…I can no longer be mistaken for a post-modern author…I made a decision to alternate between lighter and darker endings in my books, and it was Freedom’s turn for a lighter ending.”

On the writing process:

“Not to be 1970s about it, but the process is more important than the product…It’s about about the happiness of having a story to tell.”

On social media:

“It’s a free country. People can do whatever they want within the law, and even some things not within the law…I personally was on Facebook for two weeks as part of a piece of journalism I was writing — it seemed sort of dumb to me. Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose…it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium.

People I care about are readers…particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.”

This sort of infuriated me. Not that he’s incorrect about how much social networking can suck your time, because it can, but because he doesn’t understand that a lot of writers have to use the medium as a promotional device as well as a way to build networks. He doesn’t have to do anything! He has a publicist who probably has dreams about him every night, whether he has a book coming out or not. He is free to write and just be himself, while the rest of us are struggling to be heard and recognized. He will never understand how hard it is to get ahead as a writer, never again in his life. I’m not suggesting he’s old-fashioned. I’m suggesting he has lost perspective.

On American literature:

“There’s something goofy about American literature since modernism came to an end.”

On how he begins:

“I don’t start with a big idea. The work is almost entirely about creating characters I can love.”

On the Midwest:

“The Midwest means many different things to many different people. I was taught to be nice to people, which is my credo even though I seem to have some small gift for offending people without intending to…but I want to be welcoming, that’s how the Midwest impacts my writing. My parents didn’t like the people they had to be welcoming to, but they were welcoming.”

elsewhere

Out now!

Kirkus Reviews gives it a starred review: "A sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life." Find more praise from The New York Times, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, The Washington Post and more, right here. Order an autographed copy.
Download book club discussion questions.

And in paperback:

The Melting Season. Watch the trailer, or see coverage from Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, O, New York Times, and more here. Buy an autographed copy from my favorite local independent bookstore, WORD Brooklyn!

The Kept Man. Watch the trailer, and read reviews from People, Time Out New York, Interview and more right here

Instant Love. Read coverage from O, New York, Daily Candy, and more here.

I am happy to come visit your book club in person or via phone or skype! Email me directly for more info.

  there

flickr, twitter, tumblr , rss

The New York Times
NYTBR: All that We Hold Dear
NYT Mag: The Unlikely Chef
No, I'm the Narrator
A Shelf-Obsessed Writer
One Dark Night in My Neighborhood
An Apartment Affair

Oprah.com
Life Lessons from Turning 40

The Hairpin
My History of Being Fat

Wall Street Journal
Fictional Foods: No Empty Calories

Esquire.com
My Election Day

The Forward
A Chat with My Dad about Delicatessen

The Week
My 6 Favorite Books with Overweight Protagonists

Publishers Weekly
The Most Dysfunctional Families in Literature

Largehearted Boy
Book Notes: The Middlesteins
On the Men We Meet, and What Their Music Means to Us
Antiheroines: MK Reed
Antiheroines: Lisa Hanawalt
Antiheroines: Ellen Forney
Antiheroines: Emily Flake
Antiheroines: Vanessa Davis
Antiheroines: Julia Wertz
Antiheroines: Gabrielle Bell
Antiheroines: Sarah Glidden
Book Notes: The Kept Man
Ryan from Hallelujah the Hills Interviews Me
I Interview Ryan from Hallelujah the Hills
Book Notes: Instant Love

Jewish Book Council
Different, but Special

The Rumpus
Where I've Laid My Head
How To Write a Book in Two Months: The Rumpus Interview with Cole Stryker
The Fates Will Find Their Way Review
The Rumpus Interview with David Goodwillie and Teddy Wayne
The Rumpus Interview with Kate Christensen
The Last Book I Loved: Everything Matters!

Salon
Hit me with your vest shot
How I helped rescue the OWS library
Books you can dance to
Tracy Morgan cries for his mom -- and we cry, too

Poets & Writers
How to Use Tumblr to Connect with Readers (print only)

Metro
Lauren Groff Profile
Pizza Island Profile
The Rise of Small Presses
Wesley Stace Profile

emusic
Patrick Somerville Interview
Lauren Groff Interview
Nathan Englander Interview
Ellis Avery Interview
Elissa Schappell Interview
Kate Christensen Interview
Heather Havrilesky Interview
Julie Klam Interview
Jennifer Egan Interview
Maile Meloy Interview
Martha McPhee Interview

Village Voice
The 10 Best Things From 2011 To Listen To While Writing, According To Actual Authors

The Millions
A Year in Reading

Details
How to Hunt for Architectural Salvage with the Designers of Spritzenhaus
Peter Loughrey Interview

Babble
No Baby Next Door, Please

Spirit
Essay: Crossroads

The Awl
Flicked Off: In Which Two Ladies Do Yoga Then See 'Eat Pray Love'

Book Forum
Reality Hunger Review

Five Chapters
Crutch
The Last Movie

Double X
Schrödinger's Cake

find more freelance work

join my mailing list.

  here

The One Time I Needed Planned Parenthood
Big Book News #4
The Complete Story of How My Bike Got Stolen, How I Found it on Craigslist, and How I Got it Back
Mountain Backdrop: White Sands Missile Park
Big Book News #3
On Outlining Books
Advance Praise for The Kept Man
Shaving Jonny
The Big Book News #2
Artsy and Fartsy go to Coney Island
Blurry Pictures of Girls with Mustaches
Key Names from Instant Love
How Did I Miss the Hook?
Two Days in May
The Big Book News
Idiotarod 2005
Kiss Me on the Bus
Ronald Protests the RNC
Existential Crap
Happy Hour
Taco Hell
Idiotarod 2004: Race, Rest, Finish
Behave, Boys. Behave
26 Pics of People Kissing
All About George
September 11, 2001
My Imaginary Assistant Amanda

read more of my journal

search my shit.

Loading