Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Worst From the Worst

A hilarious list, even if I don’t agree with all of it. But I will say this: as little as I have read of Franzen, I really just don’t give a fuck about his work. He sets his sights on being the next Faulkner but I just can’t get past his persona, which I fully admit is media created and cobbled from out of context sound bites largely pulled from the Oprah debacle. Still, I just can’t get it within myself to read more than a page of his so-called great American novels. I very well might be missing some brilliant fiction, but when I heard him on NPR reading from his latest, almost universally praised novel, I was annoyed, bored, and depressed. Is this what we want: big toothless examinations of the American upper-middle class? I suppose their stories are as significant as anyone’s, but I don’t give a damn at the moment. When Franzen dies, maybe I’ll care, as is the case with his buddy, David Foster Wallace, who annoyed the shit out of me right up until the moment he killed himself. Oddly, I am only now getting interested, but maybe that says more about me.

Anyway, I did recently purchase Adam Levin’s The Instructions, which is big, literally and figuratively. It is rare that I buy a book from the McSweeney’s press, but I am partial to this tome as it was written by an instructor at Roosevelt, is a first novel by a Chicagoan, and is ambitious as fuck. I applaud ambition, even if it falls flat. So I was not on board with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest at the time of its publication, but maybe I can get in on the ground floor of another Illinois writer of big, meandering, PoMo fiction. And if it sucks, well I can use the 1,000 pager as a weapon. I can find Mr. Levin in the halls of RU and bludgeon him (metaphorically). Either way, I thought I’d take a chance on the thing, even if it popped up on this worst of 2010 list. More on that someday.

Lastly, let me say that "worst of" lists are annoying as shit and evidence of an asshole author, as in the case of the worst American writers list from Anis Shivani that caused a bunch of discussion, debate, and fist shaking. These lists are great fun but should be regarded as more junk food than criticism. I love a slice of pizza too, but bran is better for me. Oh well, it’s the holidays; enjoy some intellectual eggnog.