Does Jonathan Franzen hate the 9:30 club?
Jonathan Franzen is to literature what Lou Reed is to music: someone who's produced some canonical works, lots of middling ones ("How to be Alone," anyone?), and is still universally reviled for his personality.
But his new novel is a huge deal, so huge it made him the first novelist in decades to land on the cover of Time magazine.
Critics have praised his observational prowess, his ability to capture the subtlest details of the zeitgeist. And yet, in one passage where he describes DC's 9:30 Club as a "kiddie scene," he seems to have missed the mark.
Maybe that's because, as he told Politico, he's never actually set foot in the joint.
“It’s not hard to come up with enough familiarity for a persuasive sentence or two,” he told the Web site.
Reader, you tell me how persuasive.
In the scene, characters Walter Berglund and Richard Katz, a middle-aged rocker, go see Bright Eyes at the DC club. The crowd -- "almost religious in its collective seriousness" -- is nothing like the groupies of Katz' youth, the author writes.
"They seemed to bear malice toward nobody... They gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being. A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming. And so said to him: die."
Zing! And he goes on.
With Katz and Berglund being "at least twice the age of everybody else at the club, the flat-haired boys and fashionably unskinny babes," the rocker goes on a tear:
"The nation was fighting ugly ground wars in two countries, the planet was heating up like a toaster over, and here at the 9:30 club, all around him, were hundreds of kids in the mold of the banana-bread-baking Sarah [another character], with their sweet yearnings, their innocent entitlement - to what? To emotion. To unadulterated worship of a superspecial band."
Ouch. Now, does this sound like the 9:30 club you know? Full of spindly flat-haired boys with too much credit and little backbone? or is the writer describing any-hipster-venue, USA?