the great american novel and the internet

So, here we are, internet.

Brief pause to fangirl Jonathan Franzen, because, not only is The Corrections an amazing book– one I would very quickly nominate for Great American Novel, because, OMFG– but, until I saw him on the cover of Time, I sort of did not realize that he is ADORABLE.

What interests me most, though, is as I Try To Write Non-Academic Things, is his relationship with technology. It is Luddite at best, as this snippet from an interview makes clear:

AVC: A lot of writers—if they don’t use typewriters or write longhand—claim to only use computers without an Internet connection, because the distraction is too readily available, and no work gets done.

JF: Absolutely. I have one of those nine-pound Dell laptops you can get for $389 because nobody ended up buying that model, for obvious reasons. I took the wireless card out immediately, and I plugged up the Ethernet hole with superglue. The biggest struggle was getting Hearts and Solitaire off of it. I did work on a DOS machine until about five years ago. It ran WordPerfect 5.0, which is still the best software ever written for a writer, I think. But now, obviously, I work on a Windows machine, and Windows just will not let you de-install a Solitaire program. It puts it back whenever you try to remove it.

I am going to hazard a guess here that JF’s  disabling of the internet is no doubt part of the reason why he has written Great Important American Novels, whereas I can barely make it through a 400 word blog post without falling into internet rabbit holes so deep it’s a wonder I don’t end up in Pyongyang. Actually, just to digress, have you ever seen a picture of North Korea from space? It’s pitch black, hemmed in by the lights of South Korea and China. I don’t know why, but more than the military marches, more than the terrifyingly outmoded Communist regime, that darkness frightens me more than almost anything.

And since there are no traffic lights, of course, this is how they direct the flow of vehicles in Pyongyang–

Um, okay. So back to the matter at hand, which was– I cannot afford to purchase Freedom right now. My ass is broke, and even at twenty or thirty percent off, I so cannot afford a hardback. Which brings me to my next point — not “don’t smoke crack,” although that is sound advice, too. Possibly the only sound advice ever to emanate from an Adam Sandler movie, come to think of it — why are publishing houses even bothering to release hardbacks at all?

According to the Times, Kindle downloads outpace hardcover sales 143:100, a gap which I’m sure will only increase in the future. Stephen Fry just released his new autobiography (WANT!) in electronic and print formats, but the e-version is only available for Apple devices. That seems a bit Not On, if you ask me. Also, why the hell would you want to read an entire book on an iPhone?

All this is by way of saying: Franzen: amazing. Technology: a bitch.  Erin: violently broke. If you’re done with your copy of Freedom, will you lend it to me? Stellar.

You can view Ron Charles’ hilarious video review here, since HuffPo seems to hate embed codes. Whatevs.

You can read the whole interview here.

6 responses to “the great american novel and the internet

  1. There are after all libraries, and hardbacks are good for them, because they last longer under the rigors of the lending process.

    I remember a funny Harlan Ellison dig at writers who would get pissed b/c their spouses somehow didn’t understand that lounging around on the couch reading paperbacks actually constituted Important Research and a Major Part of the Process, Damnit. That was late 60s, early 70s.

    William Gibson speculates on his blog that he has spent about as much time writing as the average American spends watching TV. That’s since sometime in the late 70s, early 80s.

    And I know how to play solitaire without using a computer In Any Way.

    My point? Distractions have always existed. If you want to focus and write, you’ll develop more or less workable habits and rituals to keep them at bay. But pretending that the distractions come from external sources? Probably not helpful.

    • Yes, yes. I know. It’s just that the variety of distractions is so diverse, and yet so unproductive. When I am school procrastinating I tend to like,. reorganize the closets or scrub grout.

      I am not BLAMING the interwebs. It’s just so….enticing.

  2. My lady friend forwarded me this. I am giggling.

  3. Yeah, Terri Gross reference is kind of amazing. I remember Helen Fielding referencing someone (not Tina Brown per se, but someone of that ilk) who used to write, longhand, seated at a desk sipping white wine and wearing like, a Bill Blass suit. I think the mental picture of that is profoundly satisfying, but it it so not me.

    • Flawlessly flowing longhand, no doubt, from the kind of fountain pen that sneers at a merely bourgois Waterhouse or Rotring.

      Perhaps a quill plucked boldly from some elegant bird kept for just that purpose around the estate.

      One suspects that much of the satisfaction of the image is related to precisely its distance from oneself. I kinda go the other way: I want that three-foot shelf, and I want to have generated it by doing the stuff I’m already doing.

      Of course, I also kinda want a helicopter.

      • I want a villa on a wind-swept Greek island, the ability to complete projects without crying, and some form of gainful employment.

        And Mexican Coca-Cola. At all times.