Monday, June 14, 2010

Reader's Diary #619- Jonathan Franzen: Two's Company

Not long ago I blogged that, for inexplicable reasons, I had Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen all mixed up. Inexplicable as I'd not read any of them. So now I'm on a mission to tell them apart. A few weeks back I read my first Chabon story, "The God of Dark Laughter," and now I'm checking Franzen off the list, thanks to "Two's Company," a New Yorker story from 2005.

Does the title make you think of Three's Company? It's intentional. It's a story about a couple, a comedy writing couple named Pam and Paul, whose success has led them to Emmys and profiles about their sickeningly perfect marriage in such magazines as Good Housekeeping. Sickeningly perfect? Does that make me sound hostile or bitter? Strange since I'm very happily married myself. Did I mention that they are about to work on a romantic comedy, the most loathsome of all movie genres, movies which, despite their name, are neither romantic nor comedic? That's why I care not about Franzen's couple.

Something tells me Franzen has similar thoughts on romantic comedies, for "Two's Company"slowly becomes the anti-romantic comedy. The cutesy couple, as it turns out, are not what they first appear. Or at least Paul's not, and you can't have a couple of one. He starts to be repulsed by their perfect public persona, resenting the couple they've turned into, and then gets the wandering eye. I like that Franzen focuses on Paul's disillusionment, while Pam is shown as ignorantly and merrily working away on her script, about a woman who thinks her husband is having an affair with a big breasted woman, though he is not. Oh the irony.

But the ending... Franzen pulls it back to a Hollywood style ending after all-- though with a feminist bent rather than a love story-- and I can't decide if it was intentional or not. Did he realize that his ending is every bit as cliche as the romantic comedy? In real life poetic justice does not come in such high doses.

In any case, it's a fun story.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Teddy Rose said...

I don't usually like "Hollywood endings" but this story does sound worthwhile. Another story to load onto my Kobo.

I read Appetite

Anonymous said...

Poor oblivious Pam. You have me wondering how it ends, though, even if it is cliche.

My post is up, too.

JoAnn said...

I really like Franzen's writing. He had another story in the New Yorker just a few weeks ago. I'm looking forward to his novel due out this summer - it's based on the characters from the story "Good Neighbors". I posted about that in January:

Unfortunately, no new post for me this week...

Nikki Neurotic said...

I read Franzen's "The Corrections" a few years ago, although it was a good story-I found it a struggle to get through. I'm not sure if I would read this story, but as it's a short story I might fair a little better than I did with one of his novels.