Friday, 8 October 2010

Jonathan Franzen on Apple

I've been reading, and quite enjoying, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (I've the first edition with the typos).

A section that made me laugh out loud was when one of the main characters, a not-quite-failed rock star called Richard Katz launches into an attack on Apple - "I think the iPod is the true face of Republican politics" (Franzen: 2010: 201) - as part of a bigger tirade against the fake subversive edge of popular music culture in response to a question about the "MP3 revolution".

Here's a short extract:
I've been given the opportunity to participate in the pop-music mainstream, and manufacture Chiclets, and to try to persuade fourteen-year-olds that the look and feel of Apple computer products is an indication of Apple computer's commitment to making the world a better place. Because making the world a better place is cool, right? And Apple computer must be way more committed to a better world, because iPods are so much cooler-looking than other MP3 players, which is why they're more expensive and incompatible with other companies' software, because - well, actually it's a little unclear why, in a better world, the very coolest products have to bring the most obscene profits to a tiny number of residents of the better world. [...] We're about the relentless enforcement and exploitation of our intellectual-property rights. We're about persuading ten-year-old children to spend twenty-five dollars on a cool little silicone iPod case that it costs a licensed Apple computer subsidiary thirty-nine cents to manufacture.
Strangely, as someone in thrall to the unhealthy consumerist fetishism of all things Apple, it struck a bit of a chord. I love the design of their products but, partly as a result of recent experiences with the iPad, am increasingly irritated by Apple's closedness, control freakery and ruthless pursuit of profit.


Franzen, J. (2010). Freedom. London: Fourth Estate.

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