“What you have to do is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it."
I’m in no position to judge his idea of the correlation between internet access and the quality of fiction writing because A) I’m too biased against my own appreciation for having internet access and B) I’ve barely read anything by Franzen. One day when I was killing some time at the Borders in the Garden State Plaza I picked up his book How To Be Alone and read a few of the essays in it, which I found quite fascinating. Then I left the Borders without having bought anything for my time spent there, and recently that very Borders went out of business (this makes my mind swirl with thoughts about the underlying themes I’m crafting in my novel The Bookstore Hobos as well as of the nature of capitalism). I also have a hardcover copy of his novel The Corrections on my bookshelf that I bought used at Brier Rose Books, but it’s way back in line behind a bunch of other books I’m going to read. I imagine his comments about the internet reflect what works for him, and I think that’s very cool. It reminds me of something Woody Allen said, “For instance, take someone like Kafka. He couldn't stand any noise. It was a very delicate muse that he had. There are other people like Fellini who thrive in chaos. There's nothing delicate about it at all.”
Another interesting thing Franzen did to facilitate writing his latest novel, Freedom, involved chewing tobacco. The Time article mentions some of the difficulties Franzen had working on his latest novel (he threw out an entire year’s worth of writing at one point) and then touches on the grief that he went through after his friend and fellow writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide (another writer I’m not very familiar with. I’ve only read his essay “Laughing With Kafka” and all I’ve heard about Infinite Jest is that it’s very long). From Lev Grossman’s article:
“Wallace was a big tobacco chewer … the morning after Wallace's memorial service in New York City, Franzen did something he'd never done before: he walked into a bodega and bought some chewing tobacco. Then he went to his office, closed the door, put a plug in his mouth and started chewing. It was so revolting, he almost threw up. But he kept chewing. Then he started writing, and he didn't stop. He finished the first draft of Freedom on Dec. 17, 2009, a little more than a year later.”
I wonder if chewing tobacco in memory of his friend became part of his writing ritual. At the end of the article Grossman mentions that he’s still chewing it.