I have started to suspect that Jonathan Franzen has one very niche superpower: he enjoys the ability to cloud the brains of magazine profile writers. That's the only excuse for moronic paragraphs like this one in the New York Times Magazine:
Even if you are not a natural lover of nature or of California, Santa Cruz just feels of another era. Or maybe it’s being with Franzen — how he leaves his phone in the other room, how he speaks in long sentences. I don’t know anyone who speaks in long sentences anymore.
He’d had an ambivalent relationship with TV all his life — his opinion on it formed while watching “Married ... With Children,” because of, he’s embarrassed to admit, a crush on Christina Applegate.
But here’s the thing: When he speaks, he enunciates down to the soul of every single letter. He takes this lingual habit and out of his mouth he erects complete cities — rigorously formed ones, with firehouses and railroad stations and schools and coffee joints and community centers.
During a series of interviews, Franzen expressed ambivalence about Oprah’s endorsement — that it might alienate male readers, whom he very much was hoping would read his book; that the “logo of corporate ownership” made him uneasy; that he had found a few of her choices in the past “schmaltzy” and “one-dimensional.” Oprah disinvited him from her show in response, and Franzen was rebuked on all sides for his ingratitude and his luck and his privilege. He quickly became as famous for dissing Oprah as he was for writing a great book. The world will forgive you for a lot if you write a great book, but it will not forgive you for dissing Oprah.
Also in the article, Jonathan Franzen takes credit for warning us about the rise of Donald Trump. I would like to send the author, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a sympathy card. I trust she will regain access to her critical faculties again soon, once she is out of the range of Franzen's remarkable mutant power for a while.