We’ve only just been released from the hospital and we’re spending a good deal of time adjusting to our unexpected euphoria. We have some things to say about Ben Marcus’s Harper’s essay on Jonathan Franzen and experimental novelists (which we read ourselves the other day) that we hope we’ll find time to get to, although, at the present juncture, it looks unlikely. We’re as surprised as anyone that, save Reader of Depressing Books, the litblog scene has been so silent on it. (You lapped up Dale Peck. You lapped up Heidi Julavits’ antisnark manifesto. And you mean to tell me that yet another polemical essay calling for a reevaluation of how we interpret the novel has evaded your attention? Fer shame!)
Perhaps the silence has much to do with the fact that Harper’s, like many other misguided American periodicals, has not produced the essay in question (with the exception of this excerpt) online. Which is a damn silly thing to do at this particular moment in the 21st century and a damn silly thing to publish today, at the end of the month of all things, when I myself just received the next issue of Harper’s in the mailbox.
So what is this, Lapham? A last-minute take to get nimble-minded literary enthusiasts and grad students to set down the baroque threads of their lives and race to their newsstands and bookstores and librarires before it is sold out or replaced by the next issue? All for you? All because the essay failed to strike the appropriate chord online because, after all, you failed to produce a substantial chunk of it online until the very last possible minute (“published Thursday, September 29, 2005”)?
Is it possible that even Harper’s still operates as if it’s 1995?
It don’t work that way, my ornery friend. If you want a public debate these days (and just to be clear on this, we’re talking the Year of Our Lust 2005, Anno Domini, Glorious Year of Tom DeLay Being Indicted, Britney Spears With Child and the Hopeful Declivity Ensnaring the Republican Menace), you do what the New Yorker, the New York Times, and any other functional magazine does (even The Believer does this to some degree!). You provide it for us online. And if you still insist on an excerpt to ward off the freeloaders, you provide a substantial chunk for all of us to peruse and respond to. That essay is long, man!