The Midwestern Writer

Topic: The Midwestern writer.

Jonathan Franzen: One can go down the list of American writers who I admire and find a great many of them who come from the Midwest and who were marked by leaving it. And I feel as if you look at Mark Twain or Willa Cather or [F. Scott] Fitzgerald or George Saunders or Kurt Vonnegut, there is something distinctive about their having come from the Midwest, had their innocence prolonged by an extra year or two by coming from there, and then lost it at an advanced age in Eastern Europe.

And I think their writing is marked by that wound, but it’s difficult to do more than gather those examples together and point to them.

Maybe one wants to say moral seriousness. But it’s not like [William] Falkner and O’Connor are not morally serious people or [Franz] Kafka, who never set foot in the Midwest except imaginatively, the nature theater of Oklahoma.

So whenever you actually try to pin down what it might mean to be Midwestern as a writer, you’re trying to pin down a water droplet or something it’s terrible.

Recorded On: April 1, 2008

Innocence prolonged, innocence lost.

Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

(shutterstock)
Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less