The Middling Hater: On Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project

Every book provides indications of how it should best be read. Jonathan Franzen’s recent work The Kraus Project provides a particularly singularly explicit instruction for its reception: “Kraus spent a lot of time reading stuff he hated,” Franzen writes, “so as to be able to hate it with authority.” (11) This, indeed, is a useful, even a necessary reminder to the reader that even if we hate the book in our hands, there may well be reason to keep reading– there may well be a political or aesthetic urgency vital enough to keep us in our chairs, no matter how many other things we would rather be doing with our time. I know I would never have managed to make it to the end of Franzen’s self-indulgent annotations were it not for these early words of encouragement.

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