If there’s one author who knows how to stir controversy, it’s Jonathan Franzen. The author engaged in an legendary feud with talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey, blasted e-books as “not for serious readers” and damaging to society, and struck out at some of the nation’s most prominent literary critics, most famously calling the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani “the stupidest person in New York City” for giving his 2006 memoir a poor review.
Now it seems the author is turning his infamous ire on Twitter.
Speaking with BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Franzen complained that the literary world has become obsessed with Twitter to the point of valuing that self-promoting social medium over literary talent.
Not surprisingly, the Twitterverse struck back, with Francesca Main, editorial director at Picador, tweeting, “Most of the authors on Twitter have a book out far more frequently than those who spend loads of time grouching about it."
And Sunday Times columnist and novelist India Knight added, “Lighten up, Franzo.”
As the newspaper pointed out, it’s not the first time the author has bemoaned social media. Just last month he wrote a piece for the Guardian lamenting the tweeting, texting, Internet-surfing, and social media-obsessed ways of the modern world.
And as we wrote earlier, Franzen has been called a Luddite for deploring the Internet, Amazon, and e-books, respectively.
Interestingly, his latest book, “The Kraus Project,” is an examination of the works of satirist Karl Kraus, himself a critic of technology, consumerism, and popular media.
Here’s our theory: In lieu of promoting himself via Twitter and social media, like many of his comrades, Franzen engages in periodic spats with critics, talk show hosts, and the media to stir controversy and draw attention to his latest work.
It’s the kind of publicity even a devoted tweeter could only dream of.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.