Hey, Jonathan –
Great news, buddy! They want to turn The Kraus Project into a movie! We’ve gotten just a huge outpouring of treatments, and several studios are interested.
I know, I know, you’re generally not that happy with how these things turn out. And, to be honest, I think that you might not like all of the proposals. I mean, the book is about Karl Kraus, but most of these ideas are about, well, you. I mean you’ve got people talking about you again! So kudos!
Don’t worry if some of these seem a little unflattering. All publicity is good publicity!
Anyway, I’d be the worst agent in the world if I didn’t insist that you AT LEAST read these over. Maybe you hate all of them but like one? That’s all it takes. And come on, who thought that a book on a misanthropic, early 20th century, Austrian philosopher ever had a shot at actually making some money? THINK about it.
We’ll talk after you look these over. Just keep an open mind, man, that’s all I’m asking.
Your completely awesome agent,
Proposed Screenplays adapted from Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project:
Title: Righteous Rage
Summary: The film begins as Jonathan Franzen comes upon a very elderly German woman picking up coins on the ground of a train station. It is sunset in a bustling town. Soon, Jonathan tosses more coins on the floor, as if wanting to see the poor old woman strain to pick them up. But the old woman looks up, sees him, and narrows her eyes. A flashback takes us to Jonathan’s childhood, when he was abandoned at a school for ninjas. The ninja master took him in, taught him the way of the ninja. But the kind old master was murdered by his second in command, a woman greedy for money and power. As a witness to this murder, young Jonathan had to run away and fend for himself, and so, having few prospects, he discovered how to apply the way of the ninja in order to write critically acclaimed novels. Now, all these years later, Jonathan has found the traitor who killed his beloved master, and as they pull out their swords in the middle of the train station, they are about to embark on a battle fueled by painful memories, greed, and revenge. Jonathan is confident that he can win with the sword, but the traitorous ninja master uses the coins like throwing stars and manages to escape, thus starting a chase that takes them across the continent and ends in a swordfight quite similar to, but not in any way derivative of, the climax of Kill Bill Volume 1.
Title: Jonathan’s Excellent Adventure
Summary: Jonathan Franzen enters a magic library where books can swallow you and bring out into their worlds (the old fashioned paper kind – e-books can’t do magic!). Here, Jonathan meets Alice in Wonderland, Dorothea Brooke, Don Juan, Vannevar Morgan, Rosencrantz, the Little Prince, Elinor Dashwood, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Lancelot, Anna Karenina, Paddington Bear, James Bond, and Princess Buttercup. Jonathan gets angry at every single one of them.
Title: White Men Can Jump
Summary: In this opposites-attract romantic comedy, Jonathan Franzen bickers, and then falls in love with, the leader of a group called CFI (Crazy Feminists on the Internet). They continually suggest that his success has everything to do with privilege and attack treasured magazines for being too ‘male,’ and no matter what he does, Jonathan can’t get them to see reason. Soon, he’s having bantery discussions about chick lit, literary canons, and gender bias with an annoying but somehow attractive CFI. Note: We think Anne Hathaway would make a great Crazy Feminist love interest, since she’s very attractive but not in a threatening way.
Title: Untitled Heartfelt Buddy Comedy
Summary: Jonathan Franzen is a well-regarded writer who is quite excited to meet his new editor. But boy, is he surprised when it turns out that his new editor is a cyborg! At first they hate each other – Franzen thinks that technology is destroying society, and the cyborg thinks Franzen’s prose is overly precious – but when a rival publisher tries to publish Karl Kraus’ works before Franzen can, they have to find common ground fast! (We think we can get Donna Haraway to appear as the owner of the publishing company!)
Title: Amazon at Troy
Summary: This retelling of the Iliad is set in the modern day United States. As writers are engaged in a terrible, decades-long war against the philistines, Jonathan’s anger causes a splinter in the writers’ armies that ends up having tragic consequences for all involved. Jennifer Wiener’s blog will play the part of Iphigenia.
Title: Never Let Me Go
Summary: Opening scene: An intervention. Jonathan Franzen’s friends (a who’s who of authors and critics) insist that he attend anger management. He gets there, and encourages other group members to be angry at the way that shallow phonies are destroying humanity. He befriends a group member called Colden Haulfield, and together, they plan to blow up the satellites that control Twitter. When they realize that there are no satellites that control Twitter, they try to go back to the anger management group. Colden is accepted, but the group feels that Jonathan needs to do some work on his own before he’s ready for group. Jonathan stomps out, yelling that he didn’t want to sleep with any of them anyway.
Title: Will You Love Me Unconditionally?
Summary: The film opens with Jonathan Franzen testifying against e-books at a Congressional hearing. Later, we find that because of his brave efforts leading the anti-e-book movement, the United States has just passed a law restricting all citizens to 20 minutes per day using their electronic devices. There is a big celebration at which everyone toasts Jonathan for all his hard work, but things take a dramatic turn when Franzen receives a snail mail letter that tears his world apart. It turns out that there is a terrible family secret that has just come to light: Jonathan’s own son… is an e-book!
Title: Ask Franzen
Summary: This documentary has a simple premise: the filmmakers interview Jonathan Franzen about topics that he has done very little research on, with the caveat that Jonathan must speak as if he has great expertise on the topic. Possible subjects include the philosophy of technology, cardiology, paleobotany, gender studies, and field theory. This experimental film explores the nature of epistemology and the changing role of expertise in a world imbued by information technologies.
Title: The Center Cannot Hold
Summary: In a world where people only read text messages and genre fiction, people live without hope in a dystopian hellscape. After many wars, society finally finds a way to restore civilization to its former glory. All citizens are required to regularly engage in sexual relations with a prize-winning author. They now understand that the semen of literary geniuses is the glue that holds their cultural heritage together.
People are so happy to have a functioning society again that everyone goes along with it. But what happens when one brave young woman stands apart? This is the story of Saskia, the woman who refuses to sleep with Jonathan Franzen, even though it might destroy her entire civilization. Part Resident Evil, part Who Killed Andy Warhol, this film is sure to make audiences think about what the world would be like without highbrow literature.
Title: I’m Not Here
Summary: This “mockumentary” is along the lines of Joaquin Phoenix’s famous film, I’m Still Here. The whole literary world is abuzz by all the things that ‘Jonathan Franzen’ is saying, and soon ‘Jonathan’s’ life is spinning out of control. The audience sees him as an unsympathetic pseudo-intellectual, but it turns out that they have no idea what a genius the man actually is. It turns out that there is no ‘Jonathan Franzen’ – he’s just a persona created in order to satirize the very idea of the ‘Great American novelist.’ And who is responsible for this brilliant farce? None other than the great satirist, Karl Kraus, who has travelled through time to mock contemporary American letters.
Title: 50 Tropes of Grey
Summary: This sexually explicit film depicts the sadomasochistic relationship between Technology and Literature. Literature will be played by a middle aged guy with glasses and floppy hair who looks a bit like Jonathan Franzen. Technology will be played by Willem Dafoe, but his character will be called ‘Twitter Bezos.’ Scenes include spanking, whipping, fucking machines, ice cube play, mouthfucking, rope bondage, gags, vibrators, and penetration in 8 positions. At the end of the film Twitter Bezos admits that he only likes hurting Literature because he knows that Literature is morally and intellectually superior. Literature says that he knows, and he wants to continue the relationship anyway.
Title: Immortal Words
Summary: The public thinks of Jonathan Franzen as merely the press-savvy, perpetually disgusted Luddite of the literary world. Little do they know that he is actually a tortured hero, who has been on a quest to save humanity (and the humanities) for centuries.
Originally named Johann Franzula, Jonathan’s life changed when he was forced, against his will, to become a vampire. This happened in 1450, the same year that Gutenberg created his printing press – but only Jonathan knows that Gutenberg was actually a vampire too! The printing press was part of Gutenberg's evil plan to bring chaos to the world, because he knew that the press would undermine the hierarchies that had controlled the written word. All the bloodshed of this period in time – the wars between Protestants and Catholics, the way that books spread colonial ideology – all of these were part of Gutenberg’s evil plan to create as much bloodshed as possible.
Gutenberg wanted Jonathan to join him in this evil quest, but Jonathan swore to protect humanity, and the two have been locked into an epic battle of good versus evil ever since. Back in the 1400s, after Jonathan uses his boxing skills to beat Gutenberg, Gutenberg goes into hiding. From his secret lair, Gutenberg then engineers all the major changes in communication of the past 600 years: the rise of middle class literacy in the 1800’s, the invention of the telegram, telephone, and radio, etc. Each time, Jonathan has tried, futilely, to convince people that they are allowing an evil vampire to gain power over innocent people. But now, Gutenberg is closer than ever to achieving world domination; he invented the Internet, Facebook, Amazon, e-readers, and blogs, all as part of his plan to destroy serious literary fiction about upper-middle-class suburban ennui, and with it, the last surviving bastion of sophisticated human thought.
The world, like a bunch of mindless drones, embraces these technologies despite Jonathan’s words of warning. Luckily, in an dusty, old library in Vienna, Jonathan finds a magic sword that once belonged to Karl Kraus; this sword alone has the power to destroy the evil vampire. Unfortunately, Gutenberg has a secret weapon of his own: Unbeknownst to the foolish public, the hashtag is actually an ancient mystical symbol that is directly connected to Gutenberg’s essence, and every time someone uses Twitter, they make him more and more powerful. Can Jonathan finally destroy the evil Gutenberg before it’s too late and the human race is enslaved by Twitter forever?