Jonny B. Goobe


Dear Jonathan Franzen,

I couldn’t help but notice that you recently released a book.  I believe it’s called, Freebird, or something like that.  I haven’t read your book, although I did see a review of it on the wall of a toilet stall recently.

“Jonathan Franzen’s new book gave me the runs,” it said.

I found this to be reason enough–had I not already had a few–to steer clear of your recently released paperweight, as I’m not terribly fond of diarrhea, and don’t much like public restrooms.  But I did see that you managed to snag a vote of approval from the one, and only, Oprah, who informed her legion of minions that your work was qualified enough to stamp her corporate logo on the jacket of your book.  Which is interesting to me, as your previous book, which I believe was called, The Correcthings, was also selected by The Duchess of Daytime Television, like, two decades ago, or whenever it was you wrote it.  And yet, at that time, you were quoted thusly:

“I feel like I’m solidly in the high-art literary tradition,” and, “I see this book as my creation and I don’t want that logo of corporate ownership on it.”

Which is amusing, as well, seeing as how you weren’t at all bothered by the corporate logo of your publisher on the spine.  But allow me to steer clear of the past, and instead, focus on the very now now.  It appears that some people really don’t like Freebird quite as much they should, given the nature of your inclusion in Time as a, “Great American Novelist.”

Lookit, see, just like I said.

Lev Grossman really seems to like you, by the way.  Might want to watch the back door.  Just sayin’.

Anyway, The Atlantic sure didn’t like your book.  In fact, I think they felt that their review might have been tastier alone than your book covered in cheese.  And, in my world, that’s saying a lot.  But since you are unlikely to read the review, please allow me to highlight a few interesting takes:

“One opens a new novel and is promptly introduced to some dull minor characters. Tiring of them, one skims ahead to meet the leads, only to realize: those minor characters are the leads.”


“The language a writer uses to create a world is that world, and Franzen’s strenuously contemporary and therefore juvenile language is a world in which nothing important can happen.”


“Perhaps he can learn a lesson from Freedom: write a long book about mediocrities, and in their language to boot, and they will drag you down to their level.”

The Atlantic Wire has opinions too, and not all of them are very good.  in fact, they seem to have pooled some other opinions that say very much the same, even going so far to state, “Some critics think the book is trying so hard to be relevant and modern that it winds up failing at some of the crucial tasks of a novel.”  That doesn’t sound very good.  In fact, it makes you sound like a teenage kid, pining for attention, but managing only to demonstrate your futile state of immaturity.

And there’s this rumor that you killed Oprah’s dog.  Shame on you.  Santa probably won’t be visiting you this year, so you know.

So, what now Johnny?  Are we to wait another eight years for a door stop of mediocrity.  So far, you’ve only managed to make me want to read Stephen King again–and not the King of the past, before he retired in order to go all aliens, and repetitive angry cars, but the lean, writing machine that produced orgasmic horror back in the 80’s–or perhaps watch repeats of Gossip Girl, so, yeah, that’s not really saying much buddy.

I lied earlier.  I read the first page of your new book.  I didn’t like your use of, ‘The,” in the opening sentence, and promptly put it aside.  Then you went and re-let Oprah pick your book, and now it has that corporate logo sticker thing on it, that seems to flaunt your hypocrisy like a pink balloon in a blanket of other-worldly blue skies.  I mean, I guess I’m just confused, you know?  Why was it such a bad thing for The Correcthings, but for Freebird?  Did you have a change of heart?  You recently stated that your quotes were misappropriated, or the like.  I once told a gathered crowd at a Christopher Moore signing that, “I wasn’t going to waste any more of my time,” introducing him.  But I didn’t mean that.  I misstated what I meant.  Is that what you did?  Did you mean to say, “Golly, I’m really elated that she selected me, though I must admit that I am also surprised, given the previous selections?”  Because I would understand that.

Surely that’s what you meant.

Stevie says that's not what you meant.

Well, I guess that’s all I have to say.  I still won’t read your book.  Not until you stop killing dogs, misusing the word, ‘the,’ and denying that you jumped the commercial bandwagon to fame.  But we both know that won’t happen, so let’s just agree that you aren’t as good as you, or Lev Grossman, think you are, and we’ll move on, yes?


In the meantime, I thought you should see what true writing looks like, so here’s a video for the new season of Gossip Girl:

That’s Leighton Meester.  She’s as bad at being a musician as you are at being a writer, but she’s much prettier.  She wins.

Yours insincerely,

The Esteemed Irreplaceable Fantastic Me, Zachary Steele

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