I’ve never read a Jonathan Franzen novel, and I’ve been inclined to maintain that status quo considering the territory Franzen has staked out as the Internet’s Chief Fist-Waver. At least, that’s the impression one might fairly get from the aggregate of his commentaries on technology in recent years. So, anyway, though I guess his books are supposed to be great, I’ve felt like I could pass. I mean, why should I invest so much time in the work of a guy who isn’t interested in opening his eyes widely enough to see technology and the Internet for everything they are?
I could never relate to such a mind, I assumed.
Then I read this summary of the worldview expressed in Franzen’s books by John McDermott at The Awl:
Life is just a long, sad series of compromises that separates each of us from the kind of person we had always hoped we’d become, but we’re so eager to ignore our crushing disappointment with ourselves, to make ourselves believe that we are indeed happy people whose lives turned out just the way—perhaps even better than!—we had always expected them to, that we constantly deceive ourselves (and our loved ones) into thinking we’re content with life. And then, one day, many years later, we grow tired of the charade and accept that, yes, we have failed our younger selves and that everything we did in those years prior to convince ourselves otherwise was just part of a long, elaborately-choreographed but awkwardly-executed dance and now all we can do is look back and laugh and cry at how silly we all were for believing the lies we told each other.
Now that I can relate to! I may now have to reconsider.