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At least one person hasn’t read Sally Rooney, and it’s Jonathan Franzen.

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October 1, 2021, 9:34am

It appears the bucket hats and tote bags and coffee carts didn’t work on at least one person: in an interview with Merve Emre in Vulture, Jonathan Franzen admitted he hasn’t read Sally Rooney. “People seem to speak well of her,” Franzen said. “But when I saw her described in an ad recently as the Salinger of her generation, I was like, ‘Oh man. I hope not.’” (I hope not too.)

Though many of the authors he says he does admire are dead—in 2013, he assembled The Kraus Project, a book of translated and annotated essays by Austrian satirist Karl Kraus—Franzen has a few younger, contemporary favorites:

Who are the newer, younger writers you admire, since almost everyone we’ve been talking about is dead?

It tends to be individual books more than authors. Someone like Rachel Kushner is not that much younger, but she is younger. I think in her own way, Nell Zink is doing very interesting work.

The Wallcreeper is a great comic novel. I love teaching it.

It’s my favorite of her books, I admit. That just came out of nowhere—really, truly out of left field. And she wrote it in, whatever, three months. And it feels like, “Wow, I just got a sample of soil on Mars. It took three months to get here and now here it is.” It’s like, what the fuck?

I think Zadie Smith is the real deal. She’s the whole package. Akhil Sharma wrote a great novel.

Elsewhere, Franzen also lauded George Saunders’s stories, which Franzen said have “in his own hilarious and oblique way taken the temperature of the moment.” You can read the full interview, which discusses political fiction, Ferrante, aging and more, here.

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