What Richard Katz (one of Jonathan Franzen’s characters) sees when he goes to a Bright Eyes concert

Kiddies were streaming onto the floor from every portal, Bright-Eyed (what a fucking irritating youth-congratulating name for a band, Katz thought) and bushless-tailed.  His feeling of having crashed did not consist of envy, exactly, or even entirely of having outlived himself.  It was more like despair at the world’s splinteredness.  The nation was fighting ugly ground wars in two countries, the planet was heating up like a toaster oven, and here at the 9:30, all around him, were hundreds of kids […] with their sweet yearnings, their innocent entitlement – to what?  To emotion.  To unadulterated worship of a superspecial band.  To being left to themselves to ritually repudiate, for an hour or two on a Saturday night, the cynicism and anger of their elders.  They seemed […] to bear malice toward nobody.  Katz could see it in their clothing, which bespoke none of the rage and disaffection of the crowds he’d been part of as a youngster.  They gathered not in anger but in celebration of their having found, as a generation, a gentler and more respectful way of being.  A way, not incidentally, more in harmony with consuming.  And so said to him: die.

Oberst took the stage alone, wearing a powder-blue tuxedo, strapped on an acoustic, and crooned a couple of lengthy solo numbers.  He was the real deal, a boy genius, and thus all the more insufferable to Katz.  His Tortured Soulful Artist shtick, his self-indulgence in pushing his songs past their natural limits of endurance, his artful crimes against pop convention: he was performing sincerity, and when the performance threatened to give sincerity the lie, he performed his sincere anguish over the difficulty of sincerity.

Jonathan Franzen. Freedom. Fourth Estate, 2010.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s