- 4:19 pm - Thu, Sep 20, 2012
- 1 note
Amanda loves New York Magazine’s profile of Michael Chabon for the publication of his thirteenth book, Telegraph Avenue. It’s well-written, unfussy, and brings up more than a few Wonkistani themes:
- masculinity vis-a-vis empathy and “dickishness”
- utopian social experiments
- good design
- bridging political gaps with affection
- imagining the feelings of others (skill or impulse?)
Writer Kathryn Schultz also invokes the tired “Franzen vs. other contemporary writer” trope, though here it proves useful. She writes:
Chabon seems to excel at imagining the feelings of others, and with good reason: It is the job of the novelist. And he has tremendous faith in that act… Several times while talking to Chabon, I found myself thinking about Jonathan Franzen, who has a near-perfect grasp of emotional causality — how X action will make Y character feel. Yet Franzen’s prose is assertively unempathetic. He regards the world — at least, the worlds of his own making — with panoptic pitilessness. He includes everyone in his contempt, while Chabon includes everyone in his mercy.
To my mind, these are equally effective literary strategies, but they reflect strikingly different political and moral visions. I don’t mean “political” in the narrow partisan sense (most writers of literary fiction lean left), yet some of the difference in these visions is captured quite nicely by the discourse of our current campaign season. Franzen writes like a man who believes we’re all in this alone. Chabon believes, quite plainly, that we’re all in it together.
Maybe this is a false dichotomy, but we think there is value in the comparison. Read the whole thing, and as always, let us know your thoughts in replies, reblogs or #wonkistan.