Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Many People Can Be Good Parents, Not Very Many People Can Write Novels Like Franzen's

In fairness to Jonathan Franzen, some of his answers to Terry Gross's questions in his Fresh Air interview were thoughtful and intelligent.  But one of his answers made me howl (Terry Gross has asked whether Franzen's childlessness was an intentional choice) (note, I've modified the official transcript somewhat in brackets, where I think it misses something):

And I've been reading George Packer about the situation with Iraqi refugees, and I knew that the war had orphaned and continued to orphan a lot of kids and I suddenly thought we need to adopt some kids so that we have a family. And this will give - because it was just too [much] pressure to just be a writer. I thought, you know, I come out of family, I want to have a family. And I was all fired up about this for six weeks. And then I was talked out of it quickly. I was brought to my senses by my New Yorker editor who said, why would you do this, essentially - don't you have other work to do? So I got past it. So there were these couple of moments when I realized I really have lost something. I see my brothers. I'm close to my nephews and you know, many of my friends have kids. And I see that something changes in a relationship and also in a person's life through the process of having kids. And mostly it has not been an issue for me, but every once in a while I feel like well, that would've been an interesting, good experience to have, and one that would be really kind of right for me.
GROSS: What makes you think in retrospect that it would've been [a bad] idea to adopt Iraqi orphans?
FRANZEN: Well, what my New Yorker editor said was many people can be good parents, not very many people can write novels like yours. So what I would've lost was an opportunity to really devote myself to digging ever deeper in my books. I think it would've - I would've become a different kind of person and maybe, you know, and maybe a better person.
 Plenty of ammunition here for Franzen-haters.  Even his final thought, that maybe as a parent he would be a better person, is all about Franzen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems totaly fine to me. There are a lot more passable parents than passable artists. Trading an artist for a parent is a bad deal for society.

8:57 AM  

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