Brits Think Our Obsession with Jonathan Safran Foer is Bollocks


Our literary friend Sarah Weinman has written an interesting piece for the Guardian‘s Books Blog that examines what’s behind the recent “We hate Jonathan Safran Foer!” trend. The Cliffs Notes version: he’s young and rich; he’s married to another really talented writer; he lives in a dream apartment in a dreamy neighborhood. Any of those facts alone would be enough to incite our inner green-eyed monster, but put together in laundry list fashion, they make him sound like an unbearable force that must be stopped — even if we’re doing it subconsciously (See: Itmar Moses, Malcolm Goldwell, and Anya Ulinich).

But what we find even more fascinating than Foer fall out is the commenters’ reactions to Weinman’s fun post, and by extension, America’s obsession with celebrity and scandal. If there’s anything more entertaining than a literary culture war, it’s British people judging us for being entertained by a literary culture war. A few of the stodgiest comments — which we imagine were composed whilst sipping tea and nibbling Matlesers with Fawlty Towers – The complete series blaring in the background — after the jump.

From HumOfEvil: “I hardly imagine he is a worthy target of any kind of hatred surely? So he is ‘a bona fide celebrity.’ Is he? Is this only in the US? as over here I think you would struggle to find people who even know who he is. A point proved by the almost non-release of the film of Everything is Illuminated, despite it starring a post-LOTR Elijah Wood.”

From Junglee: “I’m scratching my head to think why a bunch of gossiping about a writer of average achievment from New York, in the tattle pages and salons of Manhattan, is supposed to be interesting to us?

What is happening in Nigeria, in Morrocan letters? Who are the writers emerging from Brazil? How has the dawning realisation of Roberto Bolano’s greatness impacted on Latin American and Spanish literature? Who are the emerging writers from India, and what do the novels that imagine modern Mumbai inform us about the recent events there? What does Najat El Hachmi’s novel about the daughter of a Morrocan immigrant in Catalunya receiving the Spanish equivalent of the Booker Prize tell us about the changing form of the Spanish novel in modern times?

Any idea? Anyone?

This article is just a kind of decadence. Please raise your game Guardian Books. Sorry if it sounds harsh, but this kind of trivial, gossipy, New York navel gazing is not lighting up our minds, or bringing attention to the faultlines and writers that matter. Inform, provoke and inspire should be your guiding principle. You have the resources, the name and the platform to do it. I believe in you, please lead the way forward.”

From Ribena: “I enjoy the Guardian Books Blog a lot and hate those that come on here to criticise anything and everything but I’m sorry, this is just rubbish.”

And finally, the smartest, from istultu: “I would just like to complain. Here’s a great solution to one and all: If you don’t like something you’ve read here about books, stop reading and go read a book.”