The New York Times wouldn’t print Birdwatching is an Alternative to Love, but they did print a shorter response to Jonathan Franzen’s op-ed bemoaning the loss of love and pain in the modern world of gadgets:
To the Editor:
I am puzzled by Jonathan Franzen’s essay “Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts” (Op-Ed, May 29).
I am significantly younger than Mr. Franzen and so experienced very little of the vibrant pre-technological world of love and pain he describes before the onslaught of the Internet.
In searching for archaeological evidence of this now-lost world, I expected older American literature to be chock-full of the Sturm und Drang whose loss he bemoans.
Yet in reading John Cheever and John Updike and Joseph Heller and Richard Yates and Raymond Carver and Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos and Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson, I saw the same repressed, numbing malaise of “liking” Mr. Franzen bemoans, frequently portrayed in more acute terms than in any of Mr. Franzen’s novels.
Shouldn’t contemporary writing reflect a far more loveless and lifeless and superficial world than those books written before the age of the BlackBerry, when such distractions from love and pain were not available? It frightens me to think that techno-consumerism may not be the key nefarious influence at work, and that therefore bird-watching may not be the solution.
Brooklyn, June 1, 2011
And now back to the embargo on Franzen over here.