Monday, July 4, 2011

Thinking About Literary Irony

Charlie Alderman has a fascinating piece up on HuffPo that analyzes Jonathan Franzen and what critic James Woods labels "hysterical realism." I've always disliked that term, more for the negative connotations that have become associated with it over the years than with the term itself; its what led me to my overcommittment to Tree of Smoke. I also have not read enough Franzen to make an accurate judgement, but am very much looking forward to cracking open Freedom. Anyways, Alterman makes an interesting connection between Franzen and DFW:
...Franzen would need the help of a contemporary in tackling the Black Satirist legacy. While Franzen is the great dramatist of the age of conspicuous consumption and our country's ironic distance towards its effects, his close friend David Foster Wallace is the age's great theorist. In Wallace's non-fiction, [he] contends that, with Watergate as a watershed, post-industrial American youth cannot take politics or their parents' values seriously. They end up mocking everything, including earnestness in relationships, and devolve into self-absorption.
He goes on to make the point that Franzen is more establishment-defending than folks think, which I'm looking forward to finding out for myself when Freedom comes out in paperback.

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