Wednesday, December 17, 2008

fancy talk

Is Jonathan Franzen clairvoyant?

The names George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden don't appear once in Jonathan Franzen's novel "The Corrections." And yet the book, which was published on Sept. 1, 2001, anticipates almost eerily the major concerns of the next seven years. Franzen conjures up a nation kept awake at night by nameless dread. The second sentence of the book: "You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen." Something did, of course—but anyone who revisits "The Corrections" now will be reminded how many of the preoccupations we've labeled as "post-9/11," or "Bush era," in fact predate both. In his story of the Lamberts, a Midwestern family with three adult children who resist their mother's hysterical insistence that they make it home for one last Christmas, Franzen lays out many of the themes that would come to dominate the millennium's first decade: global warming, economic recession, HMOs, psychopharmaceuticals, viral marketing, Eastern European instability, even the organic-food movement. (Just one trivial, but spot-on, example: Denise, the daughter, who is a chef, investigates "the Smith Street culinary scene in Brooklyn." Fast-forward seven years, to July 9, 2008, and you'll find an article in The New York Times about "the culinary flowering of Brooklyn," centered on Smith Street.)