So, in such a spirit of detachment, godspeed, Jonathan Franzen. I meant you no harm. I'm sure you and Freedom and the great American whatever will be fine. In the meantime, I'll be reading The Eternal City.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The other day I wrote a long, intemperate post on the subject of Jonathan Franzen. (Short version: I think I know why Freedom is not the Great American whatever, which is, as Frank Norris once wrote, not extinct like the dodo, but mythical like the hippogriff, but I don't want to read it just to see if I'm right.) Then I thought better of it and deleted it. Then today, I was reading about how Freedom wasn't nominated for a National Book Award, and I thought, that's why I deleted it: ultimately you can't spend your time with things like that. So I looked instead at what was nominated: how great that Patti Smith's amazing Just Kids is in the mix. And then I noticed that Kathleen Graber was nominated for poetry. I used to teach with Kathleen back at NYU - I didn't know her very well, but she always had a stack of beautiful books that she'd carry around tied together with a sash or a rope, which I got a kick out of because it made me think about that scene in Rope, but it also because it's just a beautiful way to carry books. Once in a while we had readings in the program I taught at, and she'd read something just so breathtaking I can remember exactly the lines and how she read them. Stuff like this. So I looked up her new book of poems, the book that got nominated, and it turns out it was inspired by a Joseph Brodsky essay about Marcus Aurelius and that when she was writing it she would alternate between reading his meditations, writing a poem, and cleaning out her garage, inspired by Aurelius stoic injunctions against attachment. File that one away under the practical uses of poetry and philosophy.