Dissecting Jonathan Franzen, and Photos of the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria

The other day, Nathan Bransford had an awesome post about Jonathan Franzen.

Apparently, Franzen causes contention here and there; we've dissected Franzen on the writers' forum before, more than once.

I've only read The Corrections and, I have to say, I wasn't bowled over. The characters and story left me cold. Here's what I said on the forum:

"When I read about helpless characters in (for instance) Steinbeck, I do not have the constant impulse to fling the book against the wall. With Franzen's characters, it was all I could do to rein in that impulse.

I can not abide indecisive lily-livered people in real life, and certainly cannot bring myself to empathise with an entire book full of them. Characters who constantly refuse to speak up about their own desires, who constantly subvert the hopes and thoughts of others, and who leave a wasteland of pointlessness behind them. Ick.

I realise that all this only goes to show that despite myself, Franzen's writing drew me in. But I'm not sure that's accurate - I certainly never would have picked up, let alone finished, this book if it hadn't been a book club choice. As an example, one of my book club choices was Steve Martin's The Object of Beauty. Another set of odd characters who might not necessarily have been the kindest or 'goodest', but I quite liked being in their world. Franzen's world made me want to kick his characters in the kiester.

The one line, the absolute only one line, that sticks with me as an example of brilliant imagery, was the observation he gave to one of the characters that the flowers planted around office buildings are too weak to support us, that you 'can't turn to them' in moments of crisis.

I guess that's sort of an apt metaphor for how I feel about his writing - it has it's place, but I wouldn't turn to his world view, and especially not his characters, in moments of crisis."

Meanwhile, Bransford says: "The moment that made it click for me was almost a throwaway. [Franzen] was talking about that feeling you have after you've stayed up an hour too late reading a book, and how much better you feel after doing that than when you've stayed up too late watching the World Series of Poker...

We do live in a world of tremendous distraction. We have all but eliminated boredom. Every stoplight is a moment to check our e-mail, every wait in a supermarket line is a chance to sneak a peek at Twitter, every time our dinner companion uses the restroom is a chance to Instagram...

Societal pressures are on more and more work, more and more content, more and more connection, more and more communication. Where is the pressure for more and more thinking?... Franzen thinks. I think he fears a world where people don't."

Now, that I can relate to. I guess it's why I've got schedules, am not on Twitter (yet!), and love uninterrupted reading and writing time (morning pages are coming along great!). And no-internet uninterrupted vacation time too.

Here're some photos from a walk through the Yorkshire Dales, back in May, and a ride on the Settle-Carlisle Railway:

Bolton Abbey

A duck on the way...


Panorama of the dales

Tree in field

Bull in field

Entering the village of Linton on Craven

Linton on Craven, where we spent the night in a converted barn, with dinner at the Fountaine Inn

Lambing time!

Morning view

View from the train, Settle-Carlisle railway

Cumbria from the train

Those white dots are sheep!

An isolated farm, thousands of feet up

How do you unwind from screen time?

By the way, we're calling for reviewers over at One Hundred Romances. Come join the fun!


Mary said…
I have to admit, I've never read a Franzen book. I mean, I considered it but, in the end, I just couldn't gather up the energy to bother (sounds bad but with a TBR pile like mine, you have to be picky). And lily-livered characters (heh--love that word) really aren't my cup of tea.

I have a hard time unpeeling myself from the screen but the lake calls my name and I have to go... :)
Sam said…
I've walked part of the Dales way, all be it a very small chunk. Me and my friends went up to to town Hawes for a week and stayed in a cottage up there. It rained everyday we were there but it didn't stop us going to pubs and enjoying the varies towns.
I have yet to read a Franzen book. However, I appreciate the post that Nathan had on him and how honest Franzen is. I also liked how he pointed out that we live in an age where we have essentially eliminated boredom. It's so true. The world in the end is gonna go to shit.
Beautiful pictures! How I wish I could take a trip to such a place. Great post! I haven't read Franzen but it doesn't seem to be my cup of tea... though I might try it just to be sure. =)
Laurel Garver said…
I also found The Corrections to be a frustrating read. The writing IS good, but the characters annoyed the heck out of me.

It's funny but the idea of living less distracted is something I also blogged about this week. Everyone has a different tolerance level for technological "noise" I think. Frantzen's is really low.

Your photos make me hanker for a long walk on misty hills! I spent a week in a tiny village in N. Yorkshire called Masham for reading week (spring break) when I studied abroad in college.
Anonymous said…
Great pictures. That looks like a peaceful location.

I read The Corrections years ago. I remember enjoying the beginning, feeling frustrated and almost giving up in the middle, and then sticking to the end which I thought was decent. It slumped right in the middle for me.
Melissa said…
I read. :) Interesting post, and lovely pictures! And because you're not on Twitter, I'm stopping by to tell you you've been tagged in a meme on my blog. You can blame Carrie Butler who tagged me. LOL

Oh, and I finally got my follower gadget working! Woohoo! :D Nice to *see* you again. ;)
LR said…
Lovely pictures.

I love time away from the screen. Gardening, taking walks, watching nature shows, reading cookbooks. :)
Melanie Macek said…
I think that's why I'm actually enjoying the edits I'm working on right now. I'm doing them on paper and haven't turned the computer on at home in two days. :) I am reading a book on my phone's Kindle App, but I'm not checking my email or have music playing while reading. Our vacation to the Grand Canyon afforded us 4 straight completely unplugged days and it was fantastic!! I didn't even have withdrawal symptoms.

As far as Franzen, never read anything of his and from the comments, don't think I want to. But I may check it out just to see. BTW, love the pics. *sigh, one day :)

nutschell said…
I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read a Franzen book. Now I'm curious. I love those pictures!
Deniz Bevan said…
Wish I was on a lake too, Mary!

A week in the dales sounds lovely, Sam!

I can't disagree, Michael. But there might be hope...

Thanks, Gina!

Love those tiny Yorkshire villages, Laurel!

I just wish I'd cared a little more for and about the characters, Medeia.

Ooh, thanks for the tag, Melissa!

I love away-from-the-screen time, too, LR!

Unplugged editing sounds lovely, Melanie! But no music? Not even a tape or CD?

Thanks, Nutschell! I'd be interested to know what you think!