Why I Am Not the Next Great American Novelist

I read an interview with Jonathan Franzen

from Time magazine—the issue from 2011 where 

they put him on the cover

with his big face

and called him Great and American

and a Novelist

and people freaked out because he is 

a boring genius who 

outlived DFW,

or as they call him,

The Cooler Guy From the 90s—

and he takes the journalist

birdwatching, fucking


and he says that he wrote

his Big Book on an old laptop

in a little room

with almost nothing in it,

and that he wore blindfolds while writing

and shoved shit in the ethernet port

so he would never see any internet pages,

even the ones like Jezebel that

get mad at him

for his hundreds of thousands of words and 

lack of lip-service

to college kids 

and the way he doesn’t 

perform for the children

of the culture,

and he would be “immersed”

(his word,

not mine)

in his fiction, and so he

would create a world

of the mind

and not of 

his fleshly experience

in that room, writing,

exceptionally alone.

Don’t you

get it?

He eliminated the road

that takes brain-view to 


and entered a coma-type 

realm of creation,

his body breathing slow,

heart soft in its pound as he is 

all-mind through his

large frames and fat lenses

of the owl.

He does that. He is

the Great American Old Unfazed UnWoke UnBrave 

novelist who

is a flash of luddite

brilliance and

he does not say sorry

even when what we do now 

is say sorry, a lot.

Franzen’s commitment

to his brand

of Sober & Writerly Seriousness is 

second only to that

of the tennis-poet,

the long-dead Unceasing Jester

who went down swinging

(from a beam);

meanwhile, I sit:

I cannot turn off my television

or my Twitter or stop

refreshing the Instagram

of a woman I think I need

or stop eating the fries and 

Big Macs and the pills—the ones I’m 

assigned by God and the ones

I find in the couch, 

and I don’t ever really

have much to say other than

crude Frankenstein-ish strings of 

old Lil Wayne lyrics and 

my ex-girlfriend’s tweets, anyway.

Forget all the food, then,

 I will just

suck down all the Diet Coke that

coats and floods the muddy swath of swamp road

that carries my goopy, sugary bullshit

to the unimpressed, too-pale 

blank page

for which no one at Time

will ever want 

to take my picture.

R. Jones is a writer who lives in the northeast. Read more of his work in The Daily Drunk Mag now and in The Expat Literary Journal and Misery Tourism this fall. Heckle him on Twitter at @jonestown00. 

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