Last spring, after a year and a half of long-distance dating, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. We knew the risks. We were both writers, and writers are notoriously difficult people, prone to moodiness, alcoholism, drug addiction and in the worst of cases, insanity. Yet writers—like musicians, painters and actors—seem drawn to one another, for better or worse.
Franzen won the top prize for fiction with his book, The Corrections. He did it in the pages of the American magazine Harper's, in a bitter, eloquent, intensely personal essay entitled 'Perchance to Dream: The big socially engaged novel was dead, he declared, killed off by TV.
Contemporary readers wanted entertainment, not news, engaging stories, not ideology. Franzen did more than just diagnose the problem.
He implied that he could solve it. He made a promise to deliver a book that had it all, a novel that was intimate, socially engaged and compelling. How he would do so wasn't exactly clear.
Still, the essay was a dashing piece of audacity on the part of an obscure young writer with two novels to his name.
With its provocative argument, authoritative tone and chummy allusions to members of the American fiction establishment at one point, he quoted from a personal letter from DeLilloit presented Franzen as a major league literary player from whom one could expect great things.
He tells me how, having written the Harper's essay, he locked himself away in his spartan studio on th Street in East Harlem to write. And he wore earplugs, earmuffs and a blindfold.
The Corrections finally hit American bookshops on 5 September, propelled by extraordinary hype and expectation. It became an immediate, unequivocal success. Time magazine deemed it 'one of the Valerie cornell essay books of the year', and the New York Times Sunday Book Review found it 'marvellous - everything we want in a novel'.
The movie rights were snapped up before the book came out by producer Scott Rudin, a specialist in literary adaptations including Wonder Boys and Angela's Ashes.
Perhaps even more gratifyingly for Franzen, Americans are reading it.
Despite the devastating terrorist attacks on 11 September and the state of uncertainty into which they have plunged the arts, The Corrections has climbed steadily up the bestseller lists.
It certainly looks like vindication. But success has not entirely agreed with Franzen. When Oprah Winfrey selected The Corrections for her book club last month - a decision virtually guaranteeing millions of dollars in additional sales - he publicly questioned her judgment, suggesting to more than one interviewer that his novel's 'high-art' literary qualities made it a dubious choice for a programme normally associated with middlebrow fiction.
His remarks started a national scandal. Winfrey disinvited Franzen from appearing on her show, and the literary community rallied to her defence, calling Franzen arrogant and ungrateful.
Franzen is now busy trying to explain his way out of the gaffe, telling the New York Times last week: Both Oprah and I want the same thing and believe the same thing, that the distinction between high and low is meaningless. The Corrections is as clever as the brainy postmodernists Franzen admires but infinitely more accessible.
Like DeLillo, he dazzles the reader with trenchant riffs on contemporary life - everything from mood-enhancing pharmaceuticals to bisexuality to cruise-ship culture. But Franzen embeds them in the lives of affecting human characters. It sounds suspiciously simple. But this, it turns out, is Franzen's big idea: And come to think of it, he has a case.
In stuffing their books with formal gimmicks and oracular pronouncements, male postmodernists turned the social novel into an act of intellectual machismo and long ago showed characters the door.
The job of creating memorable characters became women's work, the forte of writers such as Anne Tyler and Annie Proulx. Franzen aims to bring these traditions together. Like DeLillo, he wants to take on the world, but rather than populate his book with an anonymous horde, he gambles his ambition on a single family.
Franzen's Lambert family is in a state of freefall 'Correction' is the term employed by Wall Street to describe a sudden collapse in, well, in values. There is Enid Lambert, the obsessive Midwestern wife, fixated on the impending family Christmas; there is Al, her exasperating husband, battling Parkinson's-induced dementia.
Then there are the three mixed-up Lambert children scattered along the East Coast: Gary, an unhappy suburban banker; Chip, a raffish failed screenwriter; and finally, Denise, a sexually confused gourmet chef.
The question preoccupying Enid is, can she induce her children to recreate the family for the holiday period and allow her husband to end his days in an ambience of dignity and worth?
The family's collapse is paralleled by the decline in American society.In his famous Harper's essay of to describe "taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen", with Valerie Cornell to whom he was married.
As newly weds in the mids, he and his wife, Valerie Cornell, from whom he is now divorced, lived a strange, hermetically sealed life in a tiny flat near Harvard University. Home › Forums › Magento › Valerie Cornell Essay – This topic contains 0 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by zofunccacontvirr 6 days, 18 hours ago.
Viewing 1 post (of 1 total) Author Posts August 26, Readmore. The evidence is found in the introduction to his essay How to Be Alone, where he contends that the Harper’s essay was actually about him. Franzen separated with Valerie Cornell and are now divorced.
Valerie Seiling Jacobs holds an MFA in Nonfiction from Columbia University and a B.S. and J.D. from Cornell University. Before turning to teaching and writing, she practiced law for more than two decades.
In , Ms. Jacobs joined the faculty at Columbia University, where she teaches writing, conducts workshops, and works as a consultant in the Writing Center.
Essay by Cornell University chair, Valerie Bunce and University of Maryland professor emerita, Gay Gullickson. The views expressed are the opinions of the authors. We are both women. We have had.