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!

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