How Jonathan Franzen works

I finally read the Time cover story on Jonathan Franzen. I may be the only person left in the Western world who hasn’t read The Corrections (though it’s on my list), but the part that stood out for me was a small picture of his spartan desk and a description of his workspace:

“Franzen works in a rented office that he has stripped of all distractions. He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop from which he was scoured any trace of hearts and solitaire, down to the level of the operating system. Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the Internet, he not only removed the Dell’s wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port. ‘What you have to do,’ he explains, ‘is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it.'”

Of course, I like that the next line puts it all in perspective:

“In spite of all these precautions, Franzen got stuck.”

My laptop is going on five years old now, and it’s about time to replace it. I may not go so far as the superglue and the sawed-off Ethernet cable, but I may look into how hard disconnecting the wireless card is.

6 thoughts on “How Jonathan Franzen works

  1. You’re not the last person who hasn’t read The Corrections. I didn’t think it was possible for me to think less of Franzen, but the material you quote has proven me retrospectively wrong. “You can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the Internet”? Oh, blow me.

    • Bitchy, party of one, your table is ready. 😉 By the way, stone cold bitch is my shtick.

      It’s interesting how people get so worked up by the words “Jonathan Franzen.” However, I think it’s important to point out that the phrase “serious fiction” is not in quotes, and is therefore not in Franzen’s words. That’s the writer of the article speaking, so maybe you should ask him to blow you, not Franzen. (Wait, what does Lev Grossman look like? Is this like asking Henry Kissinger to go down on you?)

      All that said, I have a similar problem, which is probably why I’m commenting on my own blog that no one even reads (except you, honey) and not actually doing any writing: My work device is also my shopping mall, a reading library, and my audio/video entertainment system. This is why I sometimes close the laptop and throw it in a drawer and drag the typewriter to the middle of the desk. I don’t do this often enough, though, because I lack discipline, and that’s really the point I was getting at here.

      And all *that* said, I’m still planning to read his new book.

  2. If Franzen actually said something along the lines of what the writer of the article said he said–which I think is a reasonable assumption to make–then I stand by my bitchiness, which is a reaction to the idea that one can write OTHER kinds of fiction on a connected computer but not SERIOUS fiction. Which is another permutation of the idea that writing can be either popular or good but not both. This sort of assumption is what has brought theater to the edge of ruin; writing requires a little less to come to fruition, but as far as I can tell such an attitude comes from people who are more interested in masturbating than in actually saying something valuable about the human condition.

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