Jonathan Franzen: A Defense

The Corrections Is All About Snobbery 
Arts, entertainment, and more.
Nov. 2 2001 11:21 AM

Jonathan Franzen: A Defense




I'll take your point that this is not entirely a literary debate; it's also a debate over aesthetics and selling out. And I agree that some readers would have looked beyond the logo if Franzen had asked them to. But others wouldn't have: He was already getting heckled at readings by fans who were horrified by said logo. And my guess is that Franzen cares far more about those hoity-toity readers than he cares about the great TV-watching unwashed.

But maybe I think that because I disagree with you that The Corrections is an unsnobby book. I think it's quite focused on snobbery, especially with regards to Enid. Franzen hits us over the head with Enid's bad taste over and over again—I recall in particular one scene that details Enid's selection of utterly tacky gifts for her grandchildren. And snobbery is at the heart of the conflict between Enid and her daughter Denise. When Enid glowingly recounts to her hipster-chef daughter the 18-inch-tall desserts that were served at a Midwestern party, the reader, like Denise, is supposed to understand that Enid's rapture is entirely provincial. I'd say Franzen condescends to Enid for almost the entire book. Yes, he redeems her at the end, but only after exposing everything from her brand of coffee to the berth class she selects on a cruise ship as low-class. I think it's a mistake to translate the sympathy one feels for Enid as a reader to a lack of snobbery on the part of the author.

This is not to say Franzen has no sympathy for Enid, or that he's not conflicted about snobbery. Quite the opposite. But when someone as conflicted as he is gets thrown something like this—the selection for Oprah's Book Club was probably more of a shock to him than to anyone else—you have to give him some credit for not immediately jumping at the money. He was putting his own ideas of literary integrity over what would have amounted to a huge wad of cash. Which is worthy of a certain measure of respect.





The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.