Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jonathan Franzen's female 'problem'

BY Alexander Nazaryan - New York Daily News

image_2.jpegIt started, as it is so often does, with Edith Wharton.
To be more precise, it started with a New Yorker essay on the “Age of Innocence” author, written for the Feb. 13 issue by Jonathan Frazen. Called “Rooting Interest: Edith Wharton and the Problem of Sympathy,” the essay was, by many accounts, a snide and mean-spirited appraisal of Wharton’s career.
Anyone forced to read Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” in high school may question her talents as a writer, but Franzen went much further than that, speculating on aspects of her life that are far beyond the ken of an essayist:
“That [Edith and Teddy Wharton’s] ensuing twenty-eight years of marriage were almost entirely sexless was perhaps less a function of her looks than of her sexual ignorance.” (Franzen and Oprah Winfrey / AP)
“[Wharton] did have one potentially redeeming disadvantage: she wasn't pretty.”
“Wharton might well be more congenial to us now, if alongside her other advantages, she’d looked like Grace Kelly or Jacqueline Kennedy.”
“[The House of Mirth] can be read … as a sadistically slow and thorough punishment of the pretty girl she couldn’t be.”
This is, plainly put, nonsense. Critics pounced at once. The Kenyon Review blasted him, as did the blog Girls Like Giants.
But the definitive response to Franzen’s article did not come until last Saturday, when novelist Victoria Patterson shredded him in a fine, pithy essay in the LA Review of Books (which, by the way, is quickly establishing itself as the Left Coast’s most serious literary outlet).
Read the full piece at NY Daily News.

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