Saturday, November 19, 2005

But seriously, we need better literary rap wars

Ben Greenman's anti-Jonathan Franzen essay should have been right up my alley, but the piece was a flop, with Greenman a little too self-satisfied (or something) with his own status as "experimental." So respect to Sherman Alexie for his letter in the new Harper's, which I think is right on:
Does Ben Marcus, educated at NYU and Brown, employed by Columbia, and published by Anchor, Vintage, and Harper's, truly believe that he is an excluded experimentalist? Does he honestly believe that Jonathan Franzen, educated at Swarthmore, once employed by Harvard, and published by FSG and Harper's, is somehow more elitist? Or is Franzen the populist? Or is a populist elitist? Is there really much difference between Marcus and Franzen? This East Coast-East Coast Literary Rap War reminds me of the Far Side cartoon in which a lone penguin, suffering in a crowd of millions of exactly similar penguins, rises and shouts, "I have to be me!"

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