Franzen on Overrated Novels

A short video clip--Jonathan Franzen on E. M. Forster and Graham Greene

There is something about Mr. Franzen and his attitude that makes me want to lash irrationally. (And so, in complete touch with my shadow side today, I guess I shall.)  I can't say what exactly it is, but perhaps it is related to his ability to run two greater writers into the ground with no facts and nothing really cogent to say about either one of them combined with his expectation to be taken seriously.


  1. What bothers me about his views on overrated novels is one of the primary things that bothered me about Freedom. Franzen seems to have the ability to find something I like, or a view I sympathize with; he then turns that thing or view into something we should all obviously find contemptible! I just finished Forster's "Maurice" and thought it was pretty darn good. I happen to have liked Greene's "The End of the Affair" very much. But, I guess in Franzen's opinion, I waste my time on reading that is pointless, since these are artificial novels.

  2. Dear Bea,

    Boy, did you nail that. Even the best critics have blind spots and lapses, but it has been my observation that novelists and poets often make quite poor critics. Often their technique consists of "This is what I like, and so should you."



  3. I generally find that a writer's comments about other writers are more informative about the speaker than about the victims of the writer's frequently uninformed and ignorant and ill-tempered comments.

  4. Dear Fred,

    Yep. Seems to be the way of it.




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