What strikes me most about White's review, however, is his take on Franzen, rather than either Kraus or the "project" itself. These strike me as the most outstanding sentences:
He cares passionately about literature, has written about it with great intelligence and is more than aware that to make the case for high culture comes with underlying assumptions about social and economic privilege. But then he goes ahead and makes public comments that make him sound like a snob.I know exactly what White is talking about in that second sentence. Those public comments have led me to use this platform to write about Franzen's ineptitude and to compare him with an earlier writer with an annoying tendency to blither on at great length without having very much to say, Douglas Hofstadter. Indeed, those public comments have annoyed me so much that I have not yet made the commitment to determine whether or not White's first sentence has any validity.
On the other hand reading White led me to wonder whether or not Franzen may have tapped into a pornographic side of snobbery that had been previously unexplored. It may be that the best way to describe The Kraus Project is to declare it a massive exercise in self-indulgence. Looking back on my encounter with Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (which I read from cover to cover, mind you), I think I would put Hofstadter's book in the same category. Now, in this earlier case, I eventually discovered that, while I knew many people who had Hofstader's book prominently displayed on their shelves, almost all of them had left it up there, letting the rest of the world know how well-read they were without actually undertaking the exercise of reading. The Kraus Project may enjoy a similar fate. However, those who do read it and know a thing or two about the subject matter may find themselves "getting off" on Franzen's self-indulgence, figuring that "being in on it" has as much pornographic value as indulging in "it" in the first place.