“Expecting a novel to bear the weight of our whole disturbed society – to help solve our contemporary problems – seems to me a peculiarly American delusion.”
Jonathan Franzen – whose sixth novel, the hefty and keenly awaited Crossroads, came out last week – wrote those words in 1996, in an essay about the state of American fiction. If a non-American were to make the same point, it might sound a bit rude. So it’s nice to hear an American novelist admit it. Americans do seem to have some overblown ideas about what novels are for, and what they can do.
As it happens, Franzen started writing fiction at a moment when debate about the purpose and direction of the American Novel was raging especially hard ... [READ MORE]