A Spirit of Malcontent

I just heard Jonathan Franzen refer to America as a “Rogue State.” That’s an apt description, I think. And in this particular interview he gave on the Guardian Books’ Website with Sarfraz Manzoor, I found myself liking a lot more of what Franzen said as a writer to what he’s written as a writer. I wonder what that says about me?

I wonder if the pervasive discord in American life is a never-ending story? Is it possible to have some kind of harmony here in a country that started life as a bunch of misfits, rebels, malcontents, outsiders, and their ilk? There seems way too much whimsy in the idea that this spirit of malcontent is how the bread is buttered. And this bread in question can’t see itself without the butter. It’s the importance of being buttered that matters the most. So how do you convince a nation that the bread’s stale? Might as well try putting butter back into a cow.

“The comic imagination, then, not only overthrows the morality we are given from on high, it upsets our more intimately held sympathies, our sense of what is fair and right and decent. Which is why it will always irk a novelist to be told that his characters are not nice or easy to identify with, when as like as not they are not meant to be. The novelist is under no obligation to clear up the mess life makes.” Howard Jacobson


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