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Home: The Toast

Only one thing has happened this week: someone asked Jonathan Franzen about me, and he dodged the question.

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Franzen! You cannot dodge me forever, old man. I will never get off your lawn; I will make me a willow cabin at thy gate, and call upon my soul within the house; write loyal cantons of contemnèd love, and sing them loud even in the dead of night; hallow your name to the reverberate hills, and make the babbling gossip of the air cry out ‘FRANZEN!’ O, you should not rest between the elements of air and earth but you should answer me.

FRANZEN! I will pound the streets outside your city gates, and I will carry the body of Hector behind me, and I will make you watch as his face drags in the dust of his fathers under my chariot wheels. Franzen! You might say this to me, to induce me to pity:

“Think of your father, O Mallory like unto the gods, who is such even as I am, on the sad threshold of old age. It may be that those who dwell near him harass him, and there is none to keep war and ruin from him. Yet when he hears of you being still alive, he is glad, and his days are full of hope that he shall see his dear son come home to him from Troy; but I, wretched man that I am, had the bravest in all Troy for my sons, and there is not one of them left. I had fifty sons when the Achaeans came here; nineteen of them were from a single womb, and the others were borne to me by the women of my household. The greater part of them has fierce Mars laid low, and Hector, him who was alone left, him who was the guardian of the city and ourselves, him have you lately slain; therefore I am now come to the ships of the Achaeans to ransom his body from you with a great ransom. Fear, O Mallory, the wrath of heaven; think on your own father and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable, for I have steeled myself as no man yet has ever steeled himself before me, and have raised to my lips the hand of him who slew my son.”

But pity I shall have none! For do not the women and men of this generation text in movies? What covenant can there be between the likes of you and the likes of me? Shall a lion enter into an accord with man? Shall a wolf make a covenant with a lamb? Speak not to me of covenants; pick up your spear and make your peace. I come at you with the force of the peoples of Greece, with Myrmidons and with Achaeans, and what happened to just picking up the phone and calling someone, you know? What happened to the lost art of conversation?

Yield to me, Franzen, or be lost.

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