Apparently Jonathan Franzen stinks up an otherwise-fine birder documentary:
The film’s human characters (aside from Jonathan Franzen) are quirky and funny, their eyes constantly darting around after birds as they’re talking to the narrator. Here’s Chris Cooper, a handsome young black man (not all birders are white retirees) whose friends complain that they never see him from March to May. He lists seven pleasures of birding to explain why he spends migration season in the park (No. 1: the beauty of the birds). No. 7 is the unicorn effect: “After you’ve been birding for a little while, you become familiar with a bird from seeing it in the field guide, but you’ve never seen it in real life. It takes on a mythological status. Then, one day, there it is in real life, almost like a unicorn walking out of the forest.”
And here’s Jonathan Franzen on birding: “I thought it was embarrassing. I still think it’s embarrassing, a little bit. You’re basically defenseless. You’ve got your binoculars up and you’re looking at something nobody else is looking at, and everybody else is looking at you and thinking, what a dweeb.”
Jonathan Franzen, nobody is looking at you. You’re in New York City. A guy in cowboy boots and underpants plays guitar for tips in Times Square, and another guy walks around town with a cat perched on his head. Carrying a pair of binoculars is not exactly letting your freak flag fly.
Wanna hate him a little more? Here you go:
Franzen has somehow managed to swallow his shame long enough to have developed considerable skill as a birder and to experience true joy in nature, at least fleetingly. But even this joy brings Franzen agita: “My response to this happiness, naturally, was to worry that I was in the grip of something diseased and bad and wrong. An addiction. Every morning, driving to an office I’d borrowed in Santa Cruz, I would wrestle with the urge to stop and bird for ‘a few minutes.’”
Hey, whatever keeps him from writing. (via Slate)