Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads, is the first in a trilogy called “A Key to All Mythologies,” in homage to the Reverend Edward Casaubon’s scholarly enterprise in Middlemarch. You may have heard from Franzen’s haters that he is pompous, self-regarding, and Victorian in sensibility. Certainly his lofty invocation of George Eliot is in keeping with all of that. But you should know, because he wants you to know, that Franzen can laugh at himself. He’s having a bit of fun not only with the less flattering aspects of his reputation but also with his own mortality. “Casaubon dies,” Franzen reminded …
This article appears as “Chief Among Sinners” in the December 20, 2021, print edition of National Review.
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