"If you could see every bird in the world, you should see the whole world," writes Jonathan Franzen The end of the end of the earth In the new collection of previously published papers – which spans art, nature and autobiography – he travels the world to find hope in things with feathers.
People, he seems less sure. In fact, in fact, in these melancholy and glorious papers he releases so many concealed little tips about the unacceptableness of the people he penetrates into his daily life. I started to feel that it was almost personal: it's just a matter of time before I meet Jonathan Franzen in a cashier somewhere, and the few seconds will be all that is required to show my basic selfishness and vacuum.
Take for example the types of people talking about "hangovers". Franzen, despite the fact that he has lifetime goals, would probably never talk about a to-do-before-I-die list: He is "afraid of the blatism of his consumerism, his realism's glibness …." And then there are people who appear late to the airport and are rewarded for their latency by sending to the front of the line by airline employees. And then there are people who go on nature cruises and spend all their time taking pictures and not appreciating nature! Not even mentioning the people who like to include books.
Jonathan Franzen likes Edith Wharton's novels, and in a patience shortage, he has taken his controversial essay about her who was criticized when she realized her insight into her interpretation of her work. Of House of Mirth, he writes, "The novel can be portrayed as a sustainable effort by Wharton to imagine beauty from the inside and achieve sympathy for it, or vice versa as a sadistic slow and thorough punishment of the beautiful girl she could not be." Critics found their views sexistic, and it may be fair, but perhaps more important, it seems like a boring reading of a brilliant novel.
At one point in these papers, he admits that he sometimes stings as "an angry bird-like missfit who thinks he's smarter than the audience …" This is correct. But the second part of that description, the part about love, is also present, and that makes this collection worth reading.
Birds, he writes, "does what we all wish we could do, but not, except in dreams: they fly. The eagles go without problems, hummingbirds break in the middle, the watches burst into flight the heart. The birds are stretched together as a hundred billion filaments tree to tree and continent to continent. It was never a time that the world seemed great for them. "
And although he (typically) needs to compare animals with people as "embarrassing self-invented," he writes about them in moving human terms: male struts in their engagement rituals dance "like a very drunk male wedding guest". Ground Hornbills have "eyes so expressive that they can almost be human." A penguin before a group of photographers "seemed to hold a press conference … in a stance of calm dignity."
The longer you enter the collection, the more the inconvenience of other people will feel like a defensive level of instinct rather than the real vitriol. One of the collection's best pieces is a concerto about Sarah Stola's photo book The rules, consisting of portrait of regulars at a Philadelphia bar that she worked on. He disapproved of the pictures when he first saw them because they reminded him of their own failures, and the essay becomes a gentle and moving consideration of loneliness. In bars he writes: "I am miserable with self-awareness and economy and shame and shyness and etiquette, unless I am with a group. The result is that I can not look at the regulars without envy and longing – one wishes to be one of the regulars themselves . "(Franzen wrote the introduction to the book.)
This vulnerability makes it suddenly easy to read him less like a prestigious writer who is arbitrarily cruel about strangers – and more as he sees himself, someone disappointed and hopeful and heartbreaked about all the ways we treat the earth and each other.
"I suspect that sympathy or absence is involved in almost all readers' literary judgments," he writes in his essay about Edith Wharton. This collection will be beautiful when he finally gives us permission to care about him.