Jonathan Franzen is not dead. It’s sad news for the world of English letters, I know, but he is still alive, writing (presumably), and talking (when his foot is not wedged firmly in his tonsils). Sad news for Oprah too. And for XX-chromosome-bearers who have the temerity to decipher words. But Jonathan Franzen is, in fact, among the living.
Why, oh why, then, has someone writen a literary biography about him? Why, oh whyer why, did somebody at Bloomsbury actually agree to publish it? And no, it’s apparently not some Dunciad-style exercise devoted to immortalizing another overpromoted talentless mediocrity as the butt of undying scorn in a masterpiece of vicious satire. The author, one Philip Weinstein, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College, actually means it straight. And I’d ask, why even bother to satirize these people when reality does it so much better for you? But something has to jack up Bloomsbury’s intellectual pretensions.
Actually, the literary conspiracy theorist in me sees excellent sense in this. How else is the traditionalist literary establishment and citadel of DWEM values closely linked, of course, to the Bilderberg Group and the Illuminati, going to elevate Franzen as the epitome of cultivated-overpaid-white-American-navelgazingesque values without scholarly biographies, critical studies, and the rest of the apparatus of literary hagiography? Okay, in this case, one of the Twelve Who Rule In Majesty obviously pressed the go button a bit too soon, while the target was still alive. But I’m sure that’s a minor oversight. After all, someone has to keep the sainted memory of Alexander Griswold Cummins alive.
I’d just like to take this opportunity to reassure members of the fairer sex, though: Just because Jonathan Franzen is still alive does not mean you have to have sex with him. Not even once. There, now you can sleep easy nights.