I've been a reader for a long time. I was a reader long before it entered my head to myself do some writing. It's as a reader, not a writer, that I define myself in relation to literature.
I can't honestly say I've found ANYTHING in the writings of Franzen and Moody that's held a moment of interest for me. I'd rate even a modest "literary" storyteller like Tom Beller ahead of them, because the pretentiousness/bullshit factor is held to a minimum. There's more honesty.
I've never gotten through the godawfully boring first chapter of Franzen's Corrections-- never got past the endless first pages of detail-disease furniture descriptions. I've read a couple of Franzen's stories, and one of his early novels. Not exactly Jack London or O. Henry in the entertainment department! Works cerebral yet at the same time voids; the cardboard characters lacking character, lacking energy, lacking substance-- more furniture; a kind of narcissistic soullessness peeking out from the heart of the narratives (the kind of narcissism which expansively fills Moody's writings).
I've sensed a technical coldness to Franzen's works. As far as I'm concerned they were written by an automaton; I'm not sure Franzen isn't a cyborg or android created in an American mad-scientist backroom-- have not glimpsed the slightest human passion from the dude, only occasional confusion, as if his circuits were disoriented.
I read The Ice Storm. It opens with more furniture description as an unfaithful husband sits in a room studying its every detail like a prisoner with nothing else to do-- the author obviously with nothing to SAY; the cataloging of details a substitute for thought, reflections of a bourgeois life; trapped within style, descriptions of furnishings, and the infantile observations of an undeveloped personality.
It's funny that as a reader I've connected way more with complex difficult works like The Idiot from another time and place. I read that book almost twenty years ago, yet still remember vividly two major characters (Myshkin and Rogozhin?) meeting at the beginning on the train. I was grabbed by their intense personalities; by their reality. I remember them a bit later in the story gazing at the portrait of a beautiful woman, at the house they're visiting. For the reader the portrait comes alive! Here's an author who realizes that literature has to LIVE and breathe-- a writer who's not beyond putting down a plot hook or two to keep the reader involved in the story.
My lack of interest in Moody's work isn't a class thing. I've enjoyed books by upper-class authors like James Gould Cozzens who present a point-of-view; a perspective and intelligence to grab onto. With Rick Moody there's style and description, but perspective or intelligence on his bland WASPy environment, beyond the babyish drool of a one-year old, is lacking. The narrator is as much a void as are his world and characters. I found more in common, more to relate to, in Dostoevsky's Ganya and his mad Slavic family; in Ganya's embarrassment and shame at his circumstances and at his own gaping character faults, both of which are inescapably attached to him like a ball and chain. Doestoevsky was a WRITER, a giant personality, a human being, not simply a smug well-trained writer-wannabe like Rick Moody.
The ULA contains writers for whom literature is not a means to an end-- to a job or banquets or a lifestyle-- is not a hobby, but the defining aspect of their lives, something they HAVE to engage in, like eating or breathing, regardless of success or failure.
I could gush for days about books I've enjoyed. With others like The Ice Storm I found nothing to love or hate, only cute-sounding words on a page-- nothing which connected with me in any way, and so about the book I can have little to say. I acknowledge that some people enjoy Franzen and Moody's works. Exactly why remains for me a mystery.