Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Really good, serious novelists seldom get featured in the media — unless, of course, they’ve managed to fabricate some level of celebrity for themselves. We’re talking Jonathan Franzen here, not Rachel Kushner. Kushner wrote one of my favorite novels of 2013, called The Flamethrowers, and I believe she should have more notoriety than she has in popular culture.
Lucky for her, the Times assigned her a story on Jonathan Franzen, to push his new novel, Purity. They’re a good match. Like minds.
I just read the piece and I’m afraid that the pair don’t come off as very accessible or even that interesting. There’s a certain kind of posing going on. They speak academic-ese, dropping names of the erudite like the rest of us mention Kardashians. They knew David Foster Wallace. You get the feeling that if you found yourself in their presence they’d find you pathetically uninformed and poorly read. (Probably true for me!)
But they’re among a small group of the best writers we have today — the ones who’ll be remembered a hundred years from now. Someone should really be coaching them on how to relate to humans.
I’m sure I’ll read Purity one of these days. And Kushner’s next book. I’ll probably admit that they’re both superb, but I’ll wish that they had personas that are the least bit appealing, that they came off as people I’d like to know.
A lot of our highbrows of the past were able to pull that off with style.