October 13, 2010 § 8 Comments
The saving grace of this lovely large annual issue last month was not so much the fashion as it was an article about Jonathan Franzen and FREEDOM along with a bonus. The article about him and his new book, also mentions his girflfriend (ex?), Kathryn Chetkovich and an essay she wrote called “Envy.” A writer (she’s well published) writing about writer’s envy.
Well, didn’t I have to run to the shelf and take it down and read it! I had no idea he had a girlfriend (why wouldn’t he?) and that she would be a writer (why wouldn’t she be?) and since I’m always so damn curious about writers and writing and writers who hang out together and the writing process, yada yada yada , well, I had to read her essay and then re-read it.
And discover the links to Franzen whose Confessions I own, whose book of essays are on my wish list and whose Freedom, landed him on TIME’sAugust 23, 2010 cover.
So what does a writing girlfriend say about her writing boyfriend who is on the cusp and then in the thick of uproarious success with his novel despite its timing of coming out a week within 9/11?
Actually, she writes of her own struggles about putting pen to paper, how she reads his manuscript when he asks, how he disclaims on the few pages he was able to knock out and how horrible he thinks they are, and she thinks they’re brilliant and adds that even on a good day, she doesn’t write stuff that even comes close to what Franzen might refer to as crap for his own part.
Yikes. Competition. I’ve seen it at work in the writing world, but on a journalistic level.
It’s different, I think, with fiction. With fiction, the writer has to come up with everything. So the competiation between two fiction writers may be more quietly, clandestinely tooth and claw, a very edge-y ego thing.
Chetkovich realizes in the closeness of their relationship that Franzen is a stunning writer, and that she is not only envious but doomed to keep scratching away and…feel terrible about her own process along the way.
It wasn’t love at first sight for them. They met at a writing retreat (oh, geez, pls just knock me over with a feather – they met at a writing retreat? how about just going to one to begin with?) Anyway, they had a kind of growing friendship, one that intensified through conversation and conjoined by both being writers.
Then she was called away from the retreat ; her father was ill and she had to go home. And while there, found that the now long distance Franzen was the person, the friend, she wanted and needed to call and talk to.
Together again, she watched his Confessions go ballisticly popular, even the sight of the book stacked in bookstores was tough for her to tolerate. Overall, Chetkovich discovered that she must, above all, continue to write, which is her work. The envy was a “thing,” a truth she had to endure as she realized it is her lot to write…no matter what, envy, notwithstanding.
Had I not read that page in VOGUE, the overblown review of the book (overblown meaning “long” in this sense since VOGUE usually gives book talk nothing more than one page and covering several books), I would not have connected Chetkovich to Frnazen. He is a quiet guy, in his way, at first decrying Oprah footlights, and other small things, like use of a touchtone phone.
We allow him his quirks and give him his fame, and so does Chetkovich.
There arel essons to be learned here.
Above all, push on, endure. Don’t not write. Write.