Thomas Mann Prize 2022 for Jonathan Frantzen - Culture

In his essay on William Gaddi's "Mr. Difficult", written twenty years ago, Jonathan Franzen distinguishes between two different ways in which the author communicates with his readership. One, and he attributes it to Gaddis, follows the status model: the author wants to remain true to his vision and doesn't care about the reader, who, in case of doubt, is a philistine. The status author seals himself off from comprehensibility as much as possible and cultivates the aura of the lonely seer. The opposite model is the contract model. The author feels bound by an unwritten contract with the readership: he must gain their trust, they must be able to depend on him, and there is no aesthetic flaw if he gives her pleasure. To put it differently and with the infallible Borges: if the reader cannot follow the author, it is the author's failure.

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