Let's hand it to Jonathan Franzen: he does not give up easily. The more his petulant diatribes against Twitter and the doomed rest of the "modern world" earn him mockery and scorn, the more he battles aimlessly on. At this point, frankly, it is not clear if his publicity tour is to promote his new, heavily annotated translation of the Karl Kraus or to promote his personal crusade against Twitter, which he's famously termed "the ultimate irresponsible medium."
Add to that description a paranoid new adjective: "coercive." "What I find particularly alarming, again, from the point of view I care about, American fiction, is that [Twitter] is a coercive development," Franzen told BBC Radio 4’s Today show today. He went on to suggest that literary agents now have quotas for Twitter followers, the New York Daily News reports:
“Agents will now tell young writers, ‘I won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have 250 followers on Twitter.’ I see people who ought to be spending their time developing their craft and people who used to be able to make their living as freelance writers,” Franzen continued. “I see them making nothing, and I see them feeling absolutely coerced into this constant self-promotion.”
Of course, Franzen's claim is as fictional as the novels that are supposedly not being written because their would-be writers are too busy tallying up their Twitter followers. It has confused both literary agents...
Franzen says it’s alarming that agents turn away writers for having too few Twitter followers. It’s alarming J-Franz believes this nonsense.— Francesca Main (@francescamain) October 3, 2013
...and fellow, Twitter-using writers:
Writers being "coerced" onto social media instead of developing their craft. Coerced by whom? How? "10 tweets by noon or the puppy gets it?"— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) October 3, 2013
But: credit to the Franz for pulling facts and figures out of his ass and delivering them like missing commandments. http://t.co/jo0CaOX6ir— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) October 3, 2013
But, of course, Franzen probably won't read what those critics and factcheckers are saying because—well, he's not on Twitter. He already has a platform. Meanwhile, plenty of his fellow writers will keep on tweeting—and, in some cases, writing and publishing at a more productive rate than Franzen does.