Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Screw You Jonathan Franzen

Ok. Jonathan Franzen recently published his memoirs. Fabulous.

I have read both The Twenty-Seventh City and The Corrections. The first of which is a fictional account of several families in St. Louis. In The Corrections, a mythical city of St. Jude (the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, as he points out upon first mention) stands in for St. Louis. Both books were engrossing yet mired in pompous dribble. As I finished both, I felt sort of dirty and empty, although I had devoured each novel in record time. It could be compared to eating a incredibly rich meal in an expensive restaurant with the most amazing ambiance, yet when you clean your plate, you realize that the food just wasn't that good.

Yo, Franzen. We get it. Your intellectual & pompous ass just has to prove it's better than where they grew up. You really should get some serious therapy and learn how to deal with the fact you were born and raised in St. Louis. You obviously can't get over geography and frankly, it is beyond annoying AND offensive.

I take offense because I was born and raised in St. Louis. Yes, I moved away. No, I do not plan on ever moving back. Am I ashamed of where I grew up? Hell no. Every time I get on the plane after visiting I still get a bit teary-eyed because it means I having to leave people I love. The majority of my family still lives there. Many of my closest friends have built lives and families there. Are they ignorant and blind to the world beyond Highways 40, 44 & 270? No. Most of them are not (Hey, we all know morons). And after living in Boston for over 6 years, I can attest that close-minded ignorance is epidemic of every region. It's just part of life. Stupid people exist everywhere.

The fact Franzen can't stop whining about his formative years is clear-cut evidence of his ignorant blindness to the world.

NY Times just reviewed Franzen's memoirs, The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History. For those of you unfamiliar with the St. Louis area, I feel the need to point out some things which would be lost upon the casual reader. The Times' book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani refers to "the town of Webster Groves" (which Franzen apparently describes as "in the middle of the country in the middle of the golden age of the American middle class". Yikes. A nice description in some sense, but stop trying to be the second coming of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franzen).

Webster Groves is not a "town", per se. It is a suburb. St. Louis is structured differently from most municipalities. The City and County are separate, referred to as St. Louis City and St. Louis County. True "towns" do not exist for perhaps 50 miles outside (in most directions, and if you're from St. Louis, you think of this in terms of the highways). Webster Groves is also one of the older suburbs in the area, located in closer proximity to downtown than the other areas which have been so heavily populated with strip mall monstrosities (Hello? THE VALLEY? THE VALLEY?). It is an area of St. Louis county with older, charming houses and a lot of character (Shall I throw in something about it being now being a gilded suburb in the golden age of upper middle class?). There is a pleasant lack of aluminum siding and Poltergeist-ish subdivisions. The "downtown" area of Webster Groves remains a "downtown" area in which people could explore on foot, unlike the newer suburbs which have been overrun with chain restaurants.

(To Franzen's credit, on his website, he refers to Webster Groves as a suburb.)

Sure, St. Louis has its faults. But no place is perfect. There are places which make me cringe...and there are places which overwhelm me with their beauty. The Calvary Cemetary in South City has the most incredible masouleums (one of which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) and driving electric boats with my father in the lake at Forest Park remains my most treasured childhood memory.

So, Franzen. Shove it. You really should direct your gift with language into something more constructive than bitching about your childhood neighborhood. In your memoirs, you apparently own up to being a judgmental prick. Good. That's a start. It's okay to be a judgmental prick. Just stop whining about something you can't control. You were born and raised in St. Louis. Deal. Maybe you should get drinks with Brad Pitt. He's from SPRINGFIELD. Have you ever been to Springfield, Franzen? The birthplace of cashew chicken and numerous marry-me-on-reality-TV stars? The home to many a store selling W.W.J.D. merchandise? I doubt it. Jesus, Franzen, I bet you never even ventured into Bridgeton. But that Brad Pitt. I hear he still actually visits Springfield. I've never even heard about him publically saying an unkind thing about the Southwestern Missouri town (almost in Oklahoma!) he grew up in.

And he's doing quite well for himself, don't you think? He got over it. I got over it. Maybe you should get over it, too.

(Being from St. Louis, I believe this is where I have to throw in the obligatory "Go Cards".)


Anonymous said...

you should chill out

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fairygoddess said...

I like your description of Webster Groves, I lived there for 8 years, it's an awesome place.