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October 4, 2010

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?

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Posted by Erik Maza at 8:13 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Isn't this similar to how you stated that Wham City shows smelled like patchouli? Stop criticizing others when you are a terrible hack of a writer.

Hipster-venue USA. Not 9:30 Club.

I read it more of a comment about who would be at a Bright Eyes show. I wouldn't say that a venue like the 9:30 club really even has a scene, as far as I can tell (not like the Black Cat or Ottobar etc).

If you're going to post about 9:30, please, please look into the battle between 9:30 v Fillmore (Silver Spring).

One must ask: Is this the old or the new 9:30 that is supposedly being described? When does the novel take place?

Oh and Carlos Vela, thanks for doing nothing Sunday. Oh, wait...

He forgot to mention all the DC a-holes who go to shows just to say they were there, get bombed like frat boys and spend all their time talking to each other and checking their smart phones.

I agree with Perkus. I pictured a generally emo croud at a Bright Eyes concert, not a statement of who is at the 9:30 Club on any given night.

I've got to agree with most of the comments above. 9:30 is kind of a blank slate. The feeling in the room will swing wildly depending on who's playing.

Say what you will about 9:30, but they do offer a very wide variety.

Things must be awfully slow that you'd pick this as a topic. Hard to take you seriously as a journalist.

change of heart about the 9:30 club, huh Chop?

change of heart about the 9:30 club, huh Chop? i recall you trashing the place on this very blog in the past

My favorite 9:30 Club story is when the Jersey councilman took a leak on the crowd below him during a grateful dead tribute band show.

I took the passage to more be a description of what you'd find at a Bright Eyes concert than at a 9:30 Club concert in general. I've seen Bright Eyes live (at DAR Constitution Hall a couple of years ago) and I'd have to say that the description of the crowd is right on the mark.

just wanted to say that i think this is nice change of pace post and you don't need a "slow news day" to post an interesting literary tidbit relating to the area and the music scene.

The Bright Eyes concert takes place in 2004 (which is funny because "Lifted" was released in like 2001, though they keep referring to it as his new album).

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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