Jonathan Franzen Really, Really Loves Birds


You know what Jonathan Franzen hates? The vacuousness of our modern techno-consumerism, and, oh, how he hates his BlackBerry and yet loves its “marvelous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the beguiling elegance of its graphics.” Sorry, Jonathan Franzen doesn’t mean to be getting so worked up but he just really hate-loves his phone. Which he elaborates at length in a long essay in the New York Times this weekend about the same old “social media makes it so we can’t connect” stuff that old people have been griping about forever.

You know what Jonathan Franzen loves, though? Birds. He’s a big old birdwatcher, that guy.

BUT then a funny thing happened to me. It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I did this not without significant resistance, because it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool. But little by little, in spite of myself, I developed this passion, and although one-half of a passion is obsession, the other half is love.

And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I’d seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species. But, no less important, whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a robin, I could feel my heart overflow with love. And love, as I’ve been trying to say today, is where our troubles begin.

That’s the main takeaway of this piece, right? Or is it that “that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn”?

Things that we can discern:

1. Jonathan Franzen hates the “like” button.
2. He knows everything there is to know about love.
3. The Corrections is an awesome book but now Franzen’s insufferability makes me think that I actually might hate it.
4. People get really worked up about phones.
5. It’s possible for your heart to overflow with love at the sight of a pigeon.