Is Franzen our leading novelist? A brouhaha erupts.

david franzenReally, this guy's so good looking—especially if you go for wonky men with GOOD HAIR and a great pair of horned-rims. He's so… so… writer-ly.

But he can't get a break in the media, at least not on Twitter—which is where it all started.

In promoting his newest novel, Crosswords, Jonathan Franzen's publishers touted him as "THE leading writer of his generation" (caps mine).

That's a statement bound to get a reaction. And it does.

One writer quickly retweets that no matter how lauded and applauded any female author's works are, SHE "will never, ever, be called 'the greatest living American writer.'"

In that same publicity announcement, the publishers go on to tweet that Franzen, in this newest work, places the family in all its "intricacy" at the book's center.

franzen correctionsSo this gets Roxanne Gay to wondering. Gay (no slouch herself, btw) tweets back asking… Hey, wait. Haven't ALL Franzen's novels centered on the family? In other words, what's the big deal about THIS one that earns him kudos as THE GREATEST WRITER? She's sort of like… ah, c'mon!

Then a guy who writes for an online journal jumps into the DUMPSTER FIRE with these choice words: "Franzen’s a good novelist. Sorry?"

But what does he even mean? Why "SORRY?" Is he sorry because he refers to Franzen as "good" but not "great"? Or is he sorry that others are resentful? Or sorry for himself? And what's with the QUESTION MARK at the end of "sorry"?

Anyway, it's all nutz.

franzen correctionsYou may remember, 20 years ago, Franzen made literary headlines by dissing Oprah, who had chosen his family-centered novel, The Corrections, for her book club. But Franzen declined!! He didn't want his work given the imprimatur of a woman's book-club pick—because then…omg, MEN WOULDN'T TOUCH IT.

So poor Franzen, there he was, seemingly dissing both Queen Oprah AND women. Whoa! A trifecta (minus one).

Hold on—not so fast. Novelist Meg Wolitzer (no slouch either) has pointed to the same phenomenon, that men don't want to read novels about complex relationships—uh, no thanks, that's for GIRLS.

Let's be honest: Franzen's and Wolitzer's comments say more about men's sensibilities than women's. (See our jokey posts on co-ed book clubs—this one and this one, too.)

One more thing. I had the thrill of hearing Franzen in a live lecture several years back. It was essentially a master class in the ART OF WRITING. Members of the audience, many of them hopeful, young writers, asked some of the sharpest, most astute questions I've yet to hear in a lecture—and Franzen was MARVELOUS. Sadly, I can't recall a single thing he said. But I do remember the hair. And his glasses. (Did I mention he's good-looking?)

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