THE FRANZEN-O-METER: WOODS VERSUS BROOKLYN, NY

From: The Onion’s Austin A.V. Club section for October 14, 2010
The Franzen-O-Meter: Ranking the authors of the Texas Book Festival
Are any of the festival’s featured writers the next “Great American Novelist”?

Casual observers of contemporary literature can be forgiven thinking that Jonathan Franzen is the only author left in the United States. The attention being paid to his latest novel, Freedom, is a welcome sight, but it’s also unfortunate that nearly every other figure in contemporary American literature remains ignored. That shouldn’t be the case at this weekend’s Texas Book Festival, where Franzen’s presence will be felt only in the hushed praises and heated debates among the annual event’s attendants. Of course, there will be those attending just to see the big names on hand (Food Network star Alton Brown, festival founder Laura Bush), whose main awareness of books published in recent years came when Freedom was announced as the final Oprah’s Book Club selection. It is for these attendees that The A.V. Club developed the Franzen-O-Meter, a handy device that scores some of this year’s Texas Book Festival-featured authors on how closely they resemble the man a recent Time cover story declared the latest “Great American Novelist.”

Jonathan Woods
As evidenced by Franzen’s dominance in 2010—along with the buzz surrounding his fellow literary titans of the ’00s, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Lethem—contemporary American culture can only pay attention to one major author at a time. More often than not, that author’s first name is Jonathan. Typically, these Jonathans are clean-shaven, bespectacled Brooklynites between 28 and 52 years of age, sporting good heads of hair and desires to write serious novels about family, feelings, and the journey toward maturity. Thus, there’s little other than his first name connecting Jonathan Woods—a grizzled, bearded Dallas-based writer who focuses on pulpy tales of Southern noir—to the new literary vanguard.

Franzen-O-Meter rating: 5. 

While Woods may lack the markings of a Jonathan, New York Magazine—which declared Freedom to be “a work of total genius”—placed his Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness And Mayhem on the “brilliant/midbrow” spectrum of its Cultural Approval Matrix in April, meaning Woods’ and Franzen’s work is garnering some of the same fans. - Dan Solomon, October 14, 2010

Other writers appearing in the Onion article:
Jennifer Egan, Franzen-O-Meter rating: 7
Jeff Lindsay, Franzen-O-Meter rating: 3
Philipp Meyer, Franzen-O-Meter rating: 8