Jonathan Franzen on Modern Life

jonathan-franzenNovelist Jonathan Franzen writes an interesting article in today’s Guardian on several elements of increased technoconsumerism in modern life.

It focuses on German author Karl Krauss, whose soon-to-be published essays he has recently translated. I’m not familiar with Krauss, but I’m intrigued.

Particularly interesting is the short outline of his own personal, seemingly unprovoked, life-long anger – which will be not surprise to those familiar with his quietly seething work. Indeed the article could be titled ‘Apple, Amazon, Anger & the Apocalypse’.

There’s a touch of nostalgia, although he deflects the charge of being a Luddite, and generally sprays some interesting points around. A few lines are worth quoting:

“Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes”.

“But I confess to feeling some version of his disappointment when a novelist who I believe ought to have known better, Salman Rushdie, succumbs to Twitter”

“Our far left may hate religion and think we coddle Israel, our far right may hate illegal immigrants and think we coddle black people, and nobody may know how the economy is supposed to work now that markets have gone global, but the actual substance of our daily lives is total distraction”

“With technoconsumerism, a humanist rhetoric of “empowerment” and “creativity” and “freedom” and “connection” and “democracy” abets the frank monopolism of the techno-titans; the new infernal machine seems increasingly to obey nothing but its own developmental logic, and it’s far more enslavingly addictive, and far more pandering to people’s worst impulses, than newspapers ever were”

“You wouldn’t want to read a novel about the Mac: what would there be to say except that everything is groovy? Characters in novels need to have actual desires; and the character in the Apple ads who had desires was the PC..”

“One of the worst things about the internet is that it tempts everyone to be a sophisticate – to take positions on what is hip and to consider, under pain of being considered unhip, the positions that everyone else is taking”

(On the aesthetics of countries) “Even now, Germany insists on content over form”

You can read the full article here.