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Everything Jonathan Franzen Currently Hates

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05:  Novelist/essayist Jonathan Franzen attends panel "An Exchange - Is Techonology Good for Culture?" part of The New Yorker Festival 2013 at Acura at SIR Stage37 on October 5, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New Yorker) Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project, his very liberally annotated translation of Austrian critic Karl Kraus’s essays, has drawn a bit of blowback for Franzen’s cranky and off-topic pronouncements on Jennifer Weiner, Salman Rushdie, and pretty much the entire digital universe (except early Windows and the Lenovo Ultrabook). So far, so predictable: Franzen’s grouchiness isn’t breaking news, and repeatedly denigrating Twitter is a pretty easy way to get attention, even if he may or may not know what “trolling” is. But to his credit, Franzen cops to his own very human (and modern) penchant for hating what the world has come to. And his footnote-diatribe is, after all, a tribute to Kraus, the dyspeptic fin de siècle critic known around Vienna as “the Great Hater.” In honor of Franzen’s self-conscious haterade (and his disdain for Internet listicles), here’s a listicle of virtually everything he finds fault with in his annotations.

- “The ‘envy me’ tone of American Francophiles and Italophiles announcing their travel plans.” (Essay 1, Note 3)

- “More recent editions of Windows … In chasing after Apple elegance, they betray the old austere beauty of PC functionality.” (1, 3)

- “a personified Mac (played by the actor Justin Long) of such insufferable smugness that he made the miseries of Windows attractive by comparison.” (1, 3)

- “The restlessness of who or what is considered hip nowadays.” (1, 3)

- The Internet, which “tempts everyone to be a sophisticate.” (1, 3)

- “‘individualized’ Facebook pages” (1, 4)

- Snark, which is “cool’s twin sibling.” (1, 4)

- Salman Rushdie on Twitter. (1, 4)

- n+1, “a politically committed print magazine that I respect,” which nonetheless “denigrates print magazines as terminally ‘male,’ celebrates the Internet as ‘female,’ and somehow neglects to consider the Internet’s accelerating pauperization of freelance writers.” (1, 4)

- “Good lefty professors” who “start calling the corporatized Internet ‘revolutionary,’ happily embrace Apple computers, and persist in gushing about their virtues.” (1, 4)

- “the Hearst papers in America.” (1, 5)

- The U.S., which, along with Vienna, is “another weakened empire telling itself stories of its exceptionalism.” (1, 5)

- The “total electronic distraction” that is “the actual substance of our daily lives.” (1, 5)

- “Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos.” (1, 5)

- “The ‘disease’ of French theory” in the hands of “mediocre American scholars” (1, 13)

- Hemingway: “would he actually have had anything to say if he’d been forced to stay at home?” (1, 20)

- Twitter’s “food fights”: “Who has time to read literature?” (1, 25)

- Fox News. (1, 31)

- “The recent tabloidization of AOL’s home page,” which caused longtime user Franzen to switch to Gmail after thirteen years. (1, 32)

- Again, the “commercial Internet,” whose “number one imperative” is “to generate clicks.” (1, 32)

- “The lede of a front-page Arts and Leisure piece from May 13, 2012.” (1, 33)

- “Today’s cable-TV news anchors, who bring the identical tone of urgent wonderment to whatever story they happen to be following.” (1, 34)

- The “retreat into subjectivity, which is the essence of the blog.” (1, 36)

- J.D. Salinger (1, 47)

- “Arguments from Bob Dylan fans that Dylan deserves the Nobel Prize in Literature.” (1, 47)

- Writers who “report listening to Beethoven or Arcade Fire while at work. How do they pay attention to two things at once?” (1, 53)

- “The front page of the New York Post.” (1, 59)

- “Smart-ass adolescents … undermining substance with irony” (1, 63)

- “The tyranny of niceness, in contemporary fiction, [which] is enforced by terror of the Internet and its ninth-grade social dynamics … To attempt a harsh critique of the electronic system that reduces writers to these bromides is to risk having it become common ‘knowledge’ that you’re a hater, a loner, not one of us.” (1, 86)

- John Updike, for “the anal-retentive preciousness of his prose” and “his lack of interest in the bigger, postwar, postmodern, socio-technological picture … ” (1, 88)

- “The word ‘personality,’ as applied to people like Paris Hilton and Charles Barkley.” (1, 93)

- “The metastatic and culturally transformative technological advances of the last two decades.” (1, 93)

- “High-resolution smartphone videos of dudes dropping Mentos into liter bottles of Diet Pepsi shouting ‘Whoa!’ while they geyser.” (2, 2)

- Moore’s law. (1, 3)

- “‘Passion’ (to use Thomas Friedman’s word in a 2013 Times column) for digital technology.” (2, 3)

- The name of the Lenovo Ultrabook computer (though he’s “enchanted” with everything else about it). (2, 3)

- “Twitter addicts” who called him a Luddite after he called their medium “dumb.” (2, 3)

- Instant information retrieval: “Now it’s hard to get through a meal with friends without somebody reaching for an iPhone to retrieve the kind of fact it used to be the brain’s responsibility to remember.” (2, 9)

- Conservative critics like Dinesh D’Souza who “directly apply the crude label ‘PC’ to work like Alice Walker’s.” (2, 16)

- “Judith Miller’s shoddy reporting on WMDs.” (2, 16)

- “Less scrupulous avant-gardists” who exploit the “moral hazard” whereby “literary difficulty inclines readers to excuse the writer.” (2, 25)

- “The boy-novel phallicism I’d found so dangerously attractive in Gravity’s Rainbow.” (2, 26)

- “The problem of Pynchonian postmodernism.” (2, 26)

- The modern phenomenon of “the thousand-page biography … It’s as if being bored has become the way to reassure yourself that you’re doing serious reading, as opposed to playing Angry Birds.” (2, 48)

- The wrongheaded modern assumption: “‘Personality is all just brain chemistry!’” (2, 49)

- “the necessary simplifications of political praxis (‘I am right and you are wrong’).” (2, 59)

- the “peaceniks” of eighties Berlin, who “struck me as hopelessly retro.” (2, 59)

- the “punks” of eighties Berlin, who “were dirty, violent, and boring.” (2, 59)

- A front-page article in the Times' "Business" section, August 9, 2012, announcing advances in smartphone game apps. “Aren’t we lucky that our phones are so smart now! The only thing that hasn’t changed is the tone of writers celebrating how things have changed.” (2, 67)

- The Boston Globe, which “enraged me with its triviality and its shoddy proofreading and its dopily punning weather headlines” — about the last of which he wrote an angry letter to the editor. “I later devoted many pages of my second novel to making fun of what a shitty paper the Globe was.” (3, 4)

- Jeff Bezos again, who “may not be the Antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the Four Horsemen.” (3, 4)

- The “yakkers and tweeters and braggers” who will flourish in a world ruled by the Internet and Amazon reviews. (3, 4)

- “Jennifer Weinerish self-promotion.” (3, 4)

- The business models of Facebook and Twitter, “one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.” (3, 4)

- “The transformation of Canada’s boreal forest into a toxic lake of tar-sand by-products, the leveling of Asia’s remaining forests for Chinese-made ultra-low-cost porch furniture at Home Depot, the damming of the Amazon and the endgame clear-cutting of its forests for beef and mineral production, the whole mind-set of ‘Screw the consequences, we want to buy a lot of crap and we want to buy it cheap, with overnight free shipping,’ and the direct connection between this American mind-set and the new Chinese prosperity that … funds the slaughter of millions of Pacific sharks for the luxury of their fins and tens of thousands of African elephants for their ivory.” (3, 4)

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/2013 Getty Images