Saturday, September 04, 2010


This "backlash" against Jonathan Franzen is a trumped up affair over two writers who move plenty of units. Jodi Picoult has teed off on Franzen before.
Again, this whole argument over "girl parts" being the reason Picoult can't be both a bestseller (she is) and having nice things said about her in the media (see the previous link,) is a little ridiculous.
I'll wager that anyone putting a few moments thought into this would find many female novelists who are well treated in print or online and who sell plenty of books.

One of my favourite novels of the year comes from Jenifer Egan. Visit from the Goon Squad is selling well and has been universally well reviewed. Has it gotten the attention the Freedom has?
No and the reason for that is that along with being a brilliant piece of work, the Oprah nonsense gives the book an added circus element that's irresistible to write about.
Given that a few well placed idiots wondered aloud if Franzen "dissed" Oprah to goose his book sales all those years ago, is it now okay to wonder aloud at the motives of Picoult and Weiner?
I don't but then I'm pretty sure neither of them are starving.
I'm also pretty damn sure they are never going to write a novel that is in the same class as Jennifer Egan or Jonathan Franzen.
And so what?

I wonder if the larger worry here is that literary novelists will soon have to come with their own drama in order to get review space. Pop may not eat itself, but it does need to feed, so the next Great American Novel may have to come with the usual Twitter account, a Web arsenal, maybe a stint in rehab for the author?
Why isn't it enough to just be very damn good?

Curiously, this kind of penis envy seldom happens in the crime fiction world.
It's possible that there are crime writers who begrudge Ian Rankin his success, but I think a rising tide floats more boats in this case. I've certainly never heard Mo Hayder, Denise Mina, or any one else bristle at Ian Rankin or Michael Connelly's review space. I think most writers know they are part of the fraternity and as long as there's a reading public, everyone will muddle through.
This is where bestseller fiction comes in.
I've sold Lionel Shriver novels (for example) on the back of Jodi Picoult many times, because there are some general similarities in the story lines from time to time.
If some readers get a jolt from Shriver, great. If not, that's okay too.
But for writers who sell like Picoult and Weiner to get their noses out of joint over the deserved success of Jonathan Franzen (or anyone else) is ultimately self defeating.
I would have thought that was obvious by now.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can I just say I hated "The Commitments"? Couldn't get more than half way through the damn thing.

Thank you.

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