I was reading “The Onion” yesterday during my commute. And I got so engrossed in an interview with Jonathan Franzen. I’ve never read any of his books, but this dude has shit figured out, so much so that I’ll have to seek out his work. I really like what he has to say about reading and writing and communicating electronically.
I couldn’t trim this down, it just all speaks to the core of my being:
I think novelists nowadays have a responsibility—whether or not my contemporaries are actually living up to it—to make books really, really compelling. To make you want to turn off your phone and walk away from your Internet connection and go spend some time in another place. I’m trying to fashion something that will actually pull you away, so I’m certainly conscious of the tension between the solitary world of reading and writing, and the noisy crowded world of electronic communications.
I continue to believe it’s a phony palliative, most of the noise. You have the sense of “Oh yeah, I’m writing in my angry response to your post, and now I’m flaming back the person who flamed me back for my angry response.” All of that stuff, you have the sense, “Yeah, I’m really engaged in something. I’m not alone. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.” And yet, I don’t think—maybe it’s just me—but when I connect with a good book, often by somebody dead, and they are telling me a story that seems true, and they are telling me things about myself that I know to be true, but I hadn’t been able to put together before—I feel so much less alone than I ever can sending e-mails or receiving texts. I think there’s a kind of—I don’t want to say shallow, because then I start sounding like an elitist. It’s kind of like a person who keeps smoking more and more cigarettes. You keep giving yourself more and more jolts of stimulus, because deep inside, you’re incredibly lonely and isolated. The engine of technological consumerism is very good at exploiting the short-term need for that little jolt, and is very, very bad at addressing the real solitude and isolation, which I think is increasing. That’s how I perceive my mission as a writer—and particularly as a novelist—is to try to provide a bridge from the inside of me to the inside of somebody else.
Whoaaaaa. I posted this mainly because, as a writer of stuff and reader of stuff and user of electronic communication devices and stuff, I want to come back and refer to his words, like, every day of my life from now on. Especially when I’m sitting at my laptop and I’ve been sitting there for hours typing and clicking and scrolling around Facebook and I start to feel like a shell of a person: