Welcome to Franzen in February. That’s right, in the off chance that I didn’t alienate my entire readership when I reviewed Purity thrice last year, I’ve decided to devote the whole month of February to the fabulous Mr. F. Here are just some of the goodies I have in store:
- My conspiracy theory regarding the Franzen/Weiner feud (I just watched episode #1 of the X-files reboot, so I am ready to go in on this. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.)
- Q&A with Franzen Fan Club President and author of The Wallcreeper and Mislaid Nell Zink (!!!!)
- Q&A with CanLit darling and Franzen fan Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End
- Q&A with the fanatic behind Franzenfreude
- Guests posts from a couple of Franzen newbies (your first Franzen is a very special experience)
Oh, yeah, I’m going to read stuff too. Maybe even review. Here’s the thing, though: I read three of Franzen’s books last year, and I’m not really in the mood to read another one right now. Write about them, yes. Read more of them…no. That could put a damper on the whole event.
I figured it out a way around it. Part of Franzen’s mystique is how everyone seems to have an opinion about him, and many authors have come out in support or on the attack. I’m going to read books by authors who love him, who hate him, who’ve been blurbed by him, and so on. FranzenFriends and FranzenFoes, if you will. Here’s my stack:
A couple friend & foe ideas for you:
- FranzenFriends: Nell Zink, Sigal Samuel, David Foster Wallace, Emily Gould, Jami Attenberg, Chico Buarque, Laura Miller
- FranzenFoes: Jennifer Weiner, Roxane Gay, Curtis Sittenfield, Jodi Picoult
Get involved: read a book by Franzen, or a friend/foe; pitch me a guest post; or just follow along and comment. I’m not messing around with sign-ups, prizes, or read-alongs. I want to spend my time writing up all these fun posts.
I don’t really have an agenda. I’ve read his three “big” novels plus his memoir, and rated them three or four stars. I don’t even count him in my top ten authors. And I don’t give a shit if you refuse to read him for whatever (probably misinformed) reason. He’s just so fun to talk about. He’s a force in modern literature, but he can be, to quote a heroine of classic lit, so adorably clueless.
Whether you’re a FranzenFriend or FranzenFoe, stay tuned, this’ll be fun.
I’m about halfway through my BEA stack. Many of these books will be in the spotlight this Fall. Let’s see what lives up to the hype, shall we? Full reviews to come on some of these.
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth: Don’t let the whole “Anglo-Saxon shadow tongue” thing scare you. I had to read aloud for the first quarter or so to get the language, but after that it was a snap. You should let Buccmaster scare you though. I was shaking by the end.
When you think of colonizers, you think of the British, right? It was weird and jarring to watch them get colonized a thousand years ago. I blame the Canadian education system for the fact that I didn’t know one thing about the Norman invasion except the year 1066 (and I’m pretty sure I learned that in Billy Madison.) Now I know better. By the end of this book, you’ll question what you know about everything.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: I almost didn’t grab this. I was almost an idiot. This story was totally unexpected and everything I love – weird, dark, seedy, with a main character I want to know and save and shake violently. Reviews are starting to trickle in around the blogosphere; check out blogger Ryan Reads for excellent GIFs and Booktuber Just a Dust Jacket for the short and sweet of it.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: This could be a genre thing; my mother in law is a voracious reader of mysteries and she liked it. I didn’t care enough about the outcome, which I saw coming a mile away. I did love the settings; the woods were creepy and the glass house was probably symbolic of many things but still felt real.
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall: Why people in their twenties shouldn’t write memoirs exhibit #172. Yes, Marshall is in his thirties now, but this memoir only goes up till his mid-twenties. It’s supposed to be funny but I found it to be trying way too hard. I should have known when I saw the Jenny Lawson blurb on the cover; I also found Let’s Pretend This Never Happened deeply unfunny.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: There were some good one-liners, making fun of literary conventions, but it didn’t add up to much for me.
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg: I’m gonna read this 900 pager before the end of the year. Promise.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: Almost picked this up several times. I’m resisting because it feels so serious. But, um, so was her novel Year of Wonders (about the black plague) and I love that, so, I need to get over myself!
Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey: I could pair this with a Peter Pan movie night with the kids.
The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley: Started, didn’t grab me, will try again.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford: I read Crazy Rich Asians recently and have had my fill of social climbers. Will revisit later.
You know that feeling when you decide to reread a book after many years? You know how you look forward to a comforting, familiar read, perhaps with new insights this time round, but mostly, you want to revel in a familiar story? You know how you start the reread and think, I barely remember the beginning, it’s like reading it for the first time! You know the creeping realization that you have not actually read this book? That you owned it, gave it a rating on Goodreads, referenced it in one of your first blog posts, and mentioned it on social media as recently as this week, but you did not actually read the thing?
Bookish confession coming up:
The first time I saw a book trailer, I thought it was a joke. Surely, this wasn’t actually part of the marketing strategy for this big name author, working with a big name publisher? It was, though. And most book trailers are just as bad. Cheesy word art, stock film, and low production values abound.
Yeah, I’m biased – I like my literature and everything associated with it to be quiet. I have a fairly high sensitivity to noise and my two and four year olds use it all up, often before 8:00 am. I’ve never even listened to an audio book. But you know, I’m hip, I’m cool, and I can accept that book trailers are a thing; but if they’re to be a thing, can’t they be a thing done well?
For a deeper analysis of what’s gone wrong with book trailers, check out this from Book Riot or this from The New Yorker. Read on for a few of my book trailer picks: the good, the bad and… the Franzen. Continue reading