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Time and Jonathan Franzen

August 15, 2010 ・ Blog

A nice piece on The Corrections author Jonathan Franzen’s appearance on the cover of Time magazine, particularly for the quote about his feelings, pre-Corrections, about the orthodox idea of the American novel, born by the likes of John Updike and Saul Bellow.

“Expecting a novel to bear the weight of our whole disturbed society,” he wrote, “seems to me a peculiarly American delusion.”

I think the idea that a single book can stand for swathes of its society is why I’ve been drawn to American writing. But I think Franzen was right. America is much too fractured for these examinations of its tortured middle classes to represent anything wider than just that.

It’s not like I’d ever expect a novel set in Britain to stand for anything other than what it’s specifically about. What I suppose I mean, then, is that the dream of the American Novel is probably just a expression of the fallacy that the US has a classless society.

So, in real terms, Franzen’s appearance on the cover of Time doesn’t mean a whole lot. But it does suggest that his new novel, Freedom, is a bit of alright. And yeah, that’s worth at least some excitement.