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This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading. Currently can only be used by a single user (myself), but I plan to extend it to support multiple users eventually.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

119

On Autobiographical Fiction

lecture

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terms
2
notes

addressing four questions he's often asked

  1. who are your influences: dumb cus only young writers have direct influences; once you get older they kind of meld together. mentions Harold Bloom's theory of influence. plus it's always hard to tell who your influences are--there are books you like, but there are also the great books you don't think of but probably learned something from anyway. plus it's not static--you keep reading even as you write, and you're constantly influenced by things you read. his personal influences (when younger) include CS Lewis, Asimov, Fitzhugh, Marcuse, Wodehouse, Karl Kraus, The Dialectic of Enlightenment, DeLillo, Coover, Pynchon. Kafka was a bigger influence, The Trial especially (detailed in section247 and a coming note).
  2. what time of day do you write etc (on a computer, every morning)
  3. do your characters ever take over (not really)
  4. is your fiction autobiographical (to some degree yeah, but it can't be purely otherwise it's not worth writing)

he talks a little more about his marriage and how it was constraining him, and how he needed to quit that before he could write well (and how his characters were heavily influenced by his personal situation at the time). also that he writes characters based on people he knows IRL but they're not offended cus they have their own lives

Franzen, J. (2012). On Autobiographical Fiction. In Franzen, J. Farther Away. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 119-140

122

[...] Kafka's brilliantly ambiguous rendering of Josef K., who is at once a sympathetic and unjustly persecuted Everyman and a self-pitying and guilt-denying criminal, was my portal to the possibilities of fiction as a vehicle of self-investigation: as a method of engagement with the difficulties and paradoxes of my own life. Kafka teaches us how to love ourselves even as we're being merciless toward ourselves; how to remain humane in the face of the most awful truths about ourselves. It's not enough to love your characters, and it's not enough to be hard on your characters: you always have to try to be doing both at the same time. The stories that recognize people as they really are--the books whose characters are at once sympathetic subjects and dubious objects--are the ones capable of reaching across cultures and generations. This is why we still read Kafka.

—p.122 by Jonathan Franzen 2 years ago

[...] Kafka's brilliantly ambiguous rendering of Josef K., who is at once a sympathetic and unjustly persecuted Everyman and a self-pitying and guilt-denying criminal, was my portal to the possibilities of fiction as a vehicle of self-investigation: as a method of engagement with the difficulties and paradoxes of my own life. Kafka teaches us how to love ourselves even as we're being merciless toward ourselves; how to remain humane in the face of the most awful truths about ourselves. It's not enough to love your characters, and it's not enough to be hard on your characters: you always have to try to be doing both at the same time. The stories that recognize people as they really are--the books whose characters are at once sympathetic subjects and dubious objects--are the ones capable of reaching across cultures and generations. This is why we still read Kafka.

—p.122 by Jonathan Franzen 2 years ago
129

And this is why writing good fiction is almost never easy. The point at which fiction seems to become easy for a writer--and I'll let everyone supply his or her own examples of this--is usually the point at which it's no longer necessary to read that writer. [...] It's a prejudice of mine that literature cannot be a mere performance: that unless the writer is personally at risk--unless the book has been, in some way, for the writer, an adventure into the unknown; unless the writer has set himself or herself a personal problem not easily solved; unless the finished book represents the surmounting of some great resistance--it's not worth reading. Or, for the writer, in my opinion, worth writing.

—p.129 by Jonathan Franzen 2 years ago

And this is why writing good fiction is almost never easy. The point at which fiction seems to become easy for a writer--and I'll let everyone supply his or her own examples of this--is usually the point at which it's no longer necessary to read that writer. [...] It's a prejudice of mine that literature cannot be a mere performance: that unless the writer is personally at risk--unless the book has been, in some way, for the writer, an adventure into the unknown; unless the writer has set himself or herself a personal problem not easily solved; unless the finished book represents the surmounting of some great resistance--it's not worth reading. Or, for the writer, in my opinion, worth writing.

—p.129 by Jonathan Franzen 2 years ago