Although I probably shouldn’t be, I am, in fact, a fan of Jonathan Franzen’s work. In this youtube clip, at the bottom of the post, he explains why I probably shouldn’t be a fan. When they discuss Tennessee Williams, and the fact that Williams was also from St. Louis, it shows a distinction between the mind-set of the gay male author and the straight male author. Franzen writes about St. Louis and speaks of it with mostly fond memories, where Williams never wrote about St. Louis and actually refused…so they say…to even be buried there. And even though no one can be sure, it’s suggested that Williams didn’t have the same fond memories of St. Louis as Franzen because he was gay. I mention both Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote in this previous post and what Franzen says in this interview helps back me up.
In this respect, I couldn’t agree more with Franzen on Tennessee Williams. Nowadays St. Louis is just as gay friendly as most places in America. I have a gay nephew who lives and works at Washington University and he loves St. Louis. But I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for a gay man living there forty or fifty years ago. From what I hear, it wasn’t even that great in New York. But at least in New York there was a strong underground gay community to help gay men like Williams survive.
But I am, however, still a huge fan of both Franzen and Williams. Because for me…and this might be generational…I find good fiction fascinating enough to love all fiction writers as long as they write well. I’ve been holding off sending book reviewer, Elisa Rolle, a list of my favorite authors because I don’t make distinctions about whether authors are gay or straight. And my list, without apology, doesn’t just consist of gay authors and m/m fiction. In this case, Franzen writes so well I couldn’t care less who he sleeps with (though, he is kind of cute in that book-ish way). I also like the fact that Franzen made the distinction between his work and Williams’ work so openly. A lot of authors, gay or straight, would have just brushed over it without making any important statements at all for fear of saying anything…heaven forbid…politically incorrect. As far as his being an elitist goes, I just don’t buy it.
The only area where I disagree with Franzen is this quote I read on wiki:
Never use the word “then” as a conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page. …But this is just a stylistic preference and one of those writing ticks all authors have been aruging about since the beginning of time.