Jonathan Franzen would like us to know that, like Karl Kraus, he is also a complex guy and in his own double-consioussness must navigate the tensions between being privileged, and being angry. In last Friday’s article for The Guardian he wrote about “what’s wrong with the modern world” and announced:
I was a late child in a loving family which, although it wasn’t nearly prosperous enough to make me a rentier, did have enough money to place me in a good public school district and send me to an excellent college, where I learned to love literature and language. I was a white, male, heterosexual American with good friends and perfect health. And yet, for all my privileges, I became an extremely angry person. Anger descended on me so near in time to when I fell in love with Kraus’s writing that the two occurrences are practically indistinguishable.
This autobiographical account in which he compares himself to Karl Krauss ( a rich, Austrian satirist) shows us that, although white, heterosexual, academic, and male one can still develop a sense of marginalization and anger towards others due to two reasons:
1) Because the rest of the world does not have the financial and intellectual resources to love literature and language the way you did.
Kraus hated bad language because he loved good language – because he had the gifts, both intellectual and financial, to cultivate that love. And the person who’s been lucky in life can’t help expecting the world to keep going his way; when the world insists on going wrong ways, corrupt and tasteless ways, he feels betrayed by it. And so he gets angry, and the anger itself further isolates him and heightens his sense of specialness.
2) Because a girl you wanted to sleep with in Germany didn’t want to sleep with you:
Real anger, anger as a way of life, was foreign to me until one particular afternoon in April 1982 (…)The proximate cause of my anger was my failure to have sex with an unbelievably pretty girl in Munich, except that it hadn’t actually been a failure, it had been a decision on my part. A few hours later, on the platform in Hanover, I marked my entry into the life that came after that decision by throwing away my coins. Then I boarded a train and went back to Berlin, where I was living on a Fulbright grant, and enrolled in a class on Karl Kraus.
Glad he came out with a book titled Freedom.