I won't go as far as to say that these authors make me seem to be a Pollyanna (and how many know that reference, per the comment of Harlan Ellison). In fact, I might indeed fit right into their ranks (move over Garrison Keillor). However, I will still smile favourably upon a Nobel Prize (well, maybe not if I have to wait as long as Doris Lessing). Some people are just better left alone ... to write.
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This week saw the release of Farther Away, Jonathan Franzen’s newest collection of essays and speeches, covering the last five years of his non-fiction output. Well, in those last five years, he has become increasingly grumpy, griping about things like Twitter and ebooks, and building a reputation as an unrepentantly prickly author with a constant bone to pick. To celebrate the release of another book filled with Franzen’s complaints, we’ve put together a list of the ten grumpiest, crankiest and most cantankerous authors still living today. Click through to read about the exploits of our favorite literary curmudgeons, and let us know — as un-crankily as you can, please — if we’ve missed anyone in the comments.
While there are a few things Franzen actually likes, the author has stirred up a lot of controversy recently with his high-profile tirades against Edith Wharton, e-books, literary critics, and Twitter, of which he grumbled: ”It’s a free country. People can do whatever they want within the law, and even some things not within the law… I personally was on Facebook for two weeks as part of a piece of journalism I was writing — it seemed sort of dumb to me. Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose… it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters… it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’… It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium.” Not to mention the fact that he totally called out his supposed (and deceased) friend David Foster Wallace for fabricating his essays. We get it — everyone still likes him better than you, and that hurts. Let it rest, dude.
Maurice Sendak, author of highbrow kids’ book standbys Where the Wild Things Are, Outside, Over There, and The Nutshell Library, among others, may just be the most charmingly cantankerous author living today. Like Franzen, he’s not into ebooks, explaining, “I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book! A book is a book is a book.” Better still is his stance on children, which he outlined in an interview on the Colbert Report: “I didn’t set out to make children happy, or make life better for them, or easier for them… I like them as few and far between as I do adults. Maybe a bit more more because I really don’t like adults, at all, practically.” But we can’t effectively explain the brilliant grumpiness of Sendak here — do yourself a favor and watch the full interview with Colbert (in which he also calls Newt Gingrich “an idiot of great renown”) here.