Jonathan Franzen on How to Write Bluntly without Being Killed or Hurt, Literally…

jon franzen
Franzen, known for his dislike towards social media and his novel “The Correction”, shares his tips and tricks on how to stay honest while writing without getting murdered or hurt afterwards.

A few days ago, I tried writing things I never imagined writing. What was in my mind was trying to help some people out there learn the information they may not know before. I quoted the sentences written in the book, and interpreted based on my logic and all the knowledge I have about Indonesia’s politics.

The reactions emerged like sudden flood at midnight. So unprecendented and unexpected. I would see thousands of visitors coming and reading my posts literally every second, which rarely happened during my 5-year period of blogging. I was a solo blogger, thus never thought my blog would be in the limelight. A meager amount of traffic already makes me happy. But the last weekend was tremendous. All is because the topic I chose, urged by the desire to inform. It was not because of deadlines or professional pressures. I wrote because I felt I had to

Not all people are pleased to learn what I posted. Some were less than happy to find my writing. And one was “worried and enraged” because I was writing a sensitive theme in my spare time, which instead I might have used for “another much better purpose”, like writing for business purposes (if you know what I mean). Another advised that I should be cautious because who knows what will happen to me during this politically unstable phase.

“Sorry,” I said,”It was my absolute right to write things I deem important to convey to my readers. You have no rights whatsoever to tell me what to or not to write….” I hope she somehow reads it and fires me NOW. Because I know she wouldn’t dare. And even if she dares, I would be happy to accept the decision to simplify my life.

Feeling frustrated and unsupported, I turn to the American literary figure Jonathan Franzen for advice. He acknowledges:

“A piece of writing is not interesting or worth doing if there’s not some personal risks, if it’s not dangerous in some fashion. Whether you’re exposing some parts of yourself you’d rather not talk about or whether you’re trying to be sincere about something that would be much more comfortable to be ironic about or vice versa, if you’re being sarcastic or ironic about something that people take seriously.”

Franzen points out also that journalists may face the same dangers and risks by being honest in their news reports. He mentions there’s some element of psychological risk as well.”There’s a discomfort,”he puts it.

So how to tell the stories in an honest manner without being killed or get hurt by people who may feel offended by the content of our writing? Thank God, Franzen provides us some guideline.

“The first thing you have to know is: Can I find a way to write about this uncomfortable thing that will not make people uncomfortable when they read it and that distance is always navigated by way of the piece’s tone. Do you like how you sound as you write about it? Or do you sound like a pompous asshole? And you can’t immediately know that! But as soon as you start hearing… Oh this I could read aloud and it would not kill me. And yet people might simultaneously enjoy it but also be slightly uncomfortable about it. Well, that’s where I want to be. And when you start hearing that, you have some paragraphs, that you can see,’OK, I can write the whole thing in that voice and it’ll be OK. At which point it’s safe to create an outline and go on.”

As a journalist by day, I was “lucky” I write about relatively unsensitive issues and topics. However, that will be a flat life to live, won’t it?

 

(Reference: “How Jonathan Franzen Writes – Big Think Interview” )

 

 

 

 

 

The Franzenstein Effect: Jonathan Franzen on the ‘Eternal’ Battle of PC versus Mac

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Those sharp eyes and the stare! (Image credit: GQ.com)

As he was reading his own essay on the Kraus Project, the contemporary renowned American author Jonathan Franzen showcased his bitter, cynical view towards the latest progress of the world of technology. And that makes him so much intelligently ‘sexier’ than any other authors, in my view. I’m glad that he spoke about it with utterly no regret.

During his brief reading, anyone can notice the underestimating tone he was using to explain Apple’s product that J. K. Rowling said while interviewed by Anne Pachett to have changed her own life because of its light weight. Thanks to the slim design and dimension of MacBook Air, the British writer admitted she now can write “really anywhere”.

But, Mr. Franzen begs to differ! He’s got his own belief and stance.

And I coined the term “Franzenstein” to show you how much I love this dark, studious and super serious literary monster, like one created by Frankenstein in a gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the creator’s name is commonly used to refer to his creation). He is the man who obviously escapes control (of the society’s) and destroys its creator (society too).

Franzen refers to this as “Kraus’ dichotomy” of coolness and uncoolness, content versus form.

He lashed out with his eyes swiftly sweeping the audience and entire room he was in,”Is it the essence of the Apple product that you have coolness by virtue of owning it? Doesn’t matter what you’re creating on your MacBook Air, simply using a MacBook Air and using its elegant design of hardware and software is a pleasure in itself. Like walking down the street in Paris, while we’re working on some clunky utilitarian PC, where the only thing to enjoy is the quality of your work itself… As Kraus said in its Germanic life, the PC sobers what you’re doing. It allows you to see it unadorned.”

The author again added spontaneously,”This was especially true in the years of DOS Operating System and early Windows…”

To emphasize his point, he sheepishly whispered, almost unheard,”I like DOS…”

And he didn’t want to stop there. Franzen also criticized Microsoft on how messy Windows now has become since the corporation’s engineers decided to choose the pursuit of becoming more like Macintosh in and out. As Franzen put it,”One of the developments that Kraus would decry in this essay is the Viennese dolling up the German language and culture with decorative elements imported from Romans language and culture has a correlative in more recent editions of Windows which borrow ever more features from Apple but still can’t conceal their essential and uncool Windows-ness. Worse yet, it was chasing after Apple’s elegance, they betray the old austere beauty of PC functionality.

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The MacBook that Franzen says won’t stop teasing you switching from your virus-ridden, sluggish PCs.

Another Quote on Honesty and Writership

In aacordance with Irvine Welsh, Jonathan Franzen tells aspiring writers the importance of being honest.

“The first job of a writer is to be honest.”- Irvine Welsh

Being honest about your feeling is not easy. And because I have, like other people, a skeleton kept in the closet.
Jonathan Franzen, my literary idol, says the joy of writing lies in the risk of exposing ourselves too much to the world. Letting readers know and read our intellect, anxiety, greed, fondness. Yet, that is worthwhile.

This is How Jonathan Franzen Writes #writing

Jonathan Franzen on his writing process: Tone does matter.
Jonathan Franzen on his writing process: Tone does matter.
“It is such a huge question. I mean I really literally could talk all day and barely scratch the surface…

It’s always about TONE. If the tone is not there , then there’s no writing. And to get anything done, I need tone and a sense of outline. And the outline is much easier to get to the tone. I don’t have the heart to try to make an outline until I believe there is a piece of writing to be done and the piece of writing will exist as soon as I believe there is a tone to write it in.

A piece of writing is not interesting or worth doing if there is not some personal risks, if it is not dangerous in some fashion, whether your’re exposing some part of yourself you’d rather not talk about or whether it be being sincere about something that would be much comfortable to be ironic about and vice versa. If you’re being sarcastic or ironic about something that people people take seriously.

There can be some contempt risks. You don’t want to be seen writing such a thing or literally something somewhat obscene to do for journalists. But particularly if there is some elements of psychological risks, there is a discomfort. The first thing you have to know is: “Can I find the way to write about this uncomfortable thing that will not make people uncomfortable when they read it. And that distance is always navigated by way of a piece’s tone; do you like how you sound as you write about it or do you sound like a pompous asshole? And you cannot immediately know that but as soon as you start hearing, “Oh this I could read aloud and it would not kill me and yet people might simultaneously enjoy but also be slightly uncomfortable about it. That is where I wanna be.

And as you start hearing that by reading some paragraphs that you see,”Ok, I can read the whole thing in that voice and that will be OK”. At this point it is safe to make an outline and go on.

So that’s my process.” (As transcribed from a BIG THINK interview)

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