I want to go on record that this is the first appearance of William Gaddis’s US National Book Award winning novel, JR, to appear in any comic strip ever. I feel confident in making this assertion.
It’s possible that this is also the first time the works of Jonathan Franzen have been discussed with any degree of seriousness (um, in this case an extremely low degree of seriousness) in any comic strip ever. Perhaps this is funnier if you’ve read the Corrections? Okay, how many people have read The Corrections, or any book by Jonathan Franzen? WHAT DID YOU THINK?
I’ll start: The Corrections seems, despite its flaws, to be actually impelled by some kind of serious individual pain, and by the kind of moral questioning where you don’t know the answer in advance. Sure, evil drug companies have stolen the patent of a noble working man to disseminate a kind of evil brain drug to the masses, and sure, video games corrupt EVEN NARNIA, but there’s a sense that these are perhaps the best possible roads, and that the characters the book kind of forces us to identify with are really just Luddite scum for resisting the technological corruption of man in the name of happiness. You could make a pretty good case for both sides and the book is ambivalent in the best sense. Contrast with Freedom, which I hell of don’t like: Freedom’s moral dilemmas just sort of exist in a void. The answer to the question of whether mountaintop removal mining to save a single bird species is justified doesn’t seem that interesting to Franzen anymore: the large moral questions loom in the background, but essentially as flavor for the domestic drama, horrible wunderkammer set dressing: kid gets in big trouble selling bad Russian tank parts to US Blackwater-style contractors (that may be wrong; I don’t have the book on me, but something like that); husband faces pressure at work because mountain families refuse to move so that their land can be destructively mined; gentrification divides two families, etc. Think of it in TV Guide synopsis format: “An Occupy Wall Street protest forces Rick and Cindy to reassess their marriage,” “A bad investment in a Far Eastern iPhone sweatshop causes Michael to lose millions, creating tensions with his wife.” Whereas w/ The Corrections: “Incredibly unethical ecstasy-like drug allows Midwestern mom to cope with horribly dissolving marriage” — the social horror is more directly, satisfyingly tied to the situation.
(I also sort of remember writing this a few years ago: http://fictioncircus.com/news.php?id=46&mode=one. It’s a review of Franzen’s STRONG MOTION, whose plot I almost don’t even remember anymore. I think an evil corporation is generating earthquakes? I remember a really good scene with a raccoon living in horrible urban blight. But I stand by pretty much all of that review except the quality of the writing.)
Further: there’s a dejected quality to Freedom, whereas The Corrections had some kind of terrible sense of hope and possibility, like Kobo Abe-level terrible. I just don’t like Freedom. Who likes Freedom, or has any kind of thought about Franzen whatsoever, I guess?
Okay, so on Saturday we get to see where Inez works, plus also a desperate confrontation between Old and Young. Enjoy it!