For serious readers, Franzen said, “a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience”. “Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change,” he continued. “Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”
The Serious Reader — much like the Serious Music Lover and the Cinephile — is dying.
It was Colonel Ebook, on the subway, with the Kindle.
One wonders if Franzen isn’t lamenting so much the loss of the “serious reader” as the loss of the status quo: Readers who don’t actually do much reading, but who save their money for those bestsellers (cough, Freedom, cough) which pique their interest two or three times a year, because a massive marketing campaign tells them it’s time to open up their wallet and splurge on the next big thing.
That’s the sort of “serious” market which will always favor the Jonathan Franzen’s of the world. It’s not particularly condusive to the breakout author, the self-published, the diamond in the rough, or, you know, the rebirth of an industry gasping for breath.
This is the point where I planned to make some sort of “why so serious” crack about Franzen’s luddite-like views on the emerging ebook industry, but the more I think about it, the more obvious the answer becomes.
I guess I’ll skip the rhetorical question.