Jonathan Franzen is having his turn as the subject of one of the Paris Review‘s “The Art of Fiction” interviews, excerpts of which you can now read on the Paris Review‘s Web site.
Here’s a bit of Franzen on his writing powers and Freedom:
When I was younger, the main struggle was to be a “good writer.” Now I more or less take my writing abilities for granted, although this doesn’t mean I always write well. And, by a wide margin, I’ve never felt less self- consciously preoccupied with language than I did when I was writing Freedom.
You’ll have to buy the issue to read the whole interview, but check out the Web site for a 3 graph sample.
In an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Jonathan Franzen opens up about the fallout from his Corrections Oprah incident (for which he blames “the prevailing mood of philistinism”; being reviled set him back a year), the gap between men and women when it comes to books (calling it “a very destructive disconnect between the critical establishment and the predominantly female readership”), and his process, including earplugs, “pink noise” headphones, and blindfolds.
Since the run-up to the publication of Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and the Time magazine cover, Franzen-mania has taken on a blob-like character, growing ever bigger and devouring smaller books and writers in its path (something Franzen himself has done in the past). It shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, and the military hasn’t been called in to straif the creature yet. Of course frequent profiles, articles (like this one), and interviews help to feed the beast. But in the current climate (“Publishing’s dead! Run, Forrest, run!!”), a beast of a novel isn’t such a bad thing.
The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington sat down with Franzen in his “spartan writing studio in New York’s Upper East Side. The tiny room, furnished with a battered old desk and greasy-looking mattress, resembles a monastic cell. The walls are bare except for a single decorative plate. There is a tiny kitchen with one small saucepan.”
Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom will be the next Oprah’s Book Club pick, according to the AP, which got its info from three booksellers who have asked to remain unnamed–Oprah doesn’t officially announce the pick until Friday.
Here’s more from the story:
Winfrey’s decision tells a story she loves well, redemption, and cites a book that itself redeems a troubled Minnesota-based family. Released in late August, “Freedom” was virtually canonized by critics before publication and has been topping best-seller lists even without Oprah’s approval.
Apparently she has forgiven Franzen, who lost the Oprah seal on The Corrections after making some less-than-happy remarks about his inclusion in the Club for that book. And, surely, FSG will forgive Franzen, too–they must not have been too happy to lose all those sales last time. Freedom just keeps getting bigger and bigger…
Jonathan Franzen’s super-highly anticipated best-book-ever-it’s-gonna-change-everything-for-everyone-book, Freedom (click here to read our starred review), is finally out. We have a few discussion questions for you:
Have any of you picked it up yet?
If yes, in what format? Hardcover? E-book? Audio?
What do you think of the book so far? How about them Berglunds?
Ron Charles the video reviewer is back, this time with official Washington Post sponsorship. Today, he takes on the most buzzed book ever, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which officially comes out today. The world is changed. Click here to see the video.
Note the cameo by an assortment of Beanie Baby birds, and Charles’ clever use of editing technology to illustrate his points. Especially moving is the scene that takes place in 1834, back when the whole world was sepia (it was–really–look at the pictures…). This video is a masterpiece worthy of David Pogue, the NYT tech critic who perfected the art of the silly product review. We’re looking forward to more of these videos from Mr. Charles.
Jonathan Franzen and his British publisher 4th Estate (a division of HarperCollins) are probably joyful today. The praise for Franzen just keeps coming (and this blogger is reading it too, and tends to think much of the praise is deserved), with perhaps the gushiest piece yet appearing today in the Guardian. Columnist Jonathan Jones not only classes Frazen “a literary genius for our times,” but goes on to say “Freedom is the novel of the year, and the century.” Wow! The whole century! That’s over ten years!
Only recently, a critic was lamenting the decline of the American novel, the passing of the age of Updike, Roth and Bellow. But there is no excuse for pessimism about the future of serious fiction when a writer such as Franzen is coming into his prime. His hit The Corrections won him an army of readers, then he published a set of provocative cultural essays – and this autumn, Freedom, his first novel since The Corrections, will be finally be published. It is an extraordinary work, which develops and deepens the immense talent so evident in The Corrections in a way that is at first troubling, then addictive – and then, with mounting satisfaction, convinces you this is simply on a different plane from other contemporary fiction.
Freedom comes out in the UK on September 23. We’ll have it here in the US next week. Curiously, which cover do you like better, our bird or their big “F”?
This is going to be the season of Franzen. Not only is he on the cover of every fancy magazine in America, but the Rumpus is sponsoring a special one-off version of its book club (which we told you about a few weeks ago) for Franzen’s highly, highly anticipated new novel, Freedom, which comes out August 31st (but we’ll tell you a secret–advance hardcovers have already been mailed out, so you might be able to find one).
Here’s more info from the Rumpus:
How it works: Almost exactly like The Rumpus Book Club except you don’t get the book in advance and the book club will only exist for one month. We’ll be sending out books right around the publication date, August 28. We’ll create an email discussion group for the book, highlight some of our members thoughts on The Rumpus, and on either September 23 or 24 we’ll host a one-hour online discussion between the book club members and Jonathan Franzen.
And here’s one interesting detail about how they’re running this show: you can either buy the book from the Rumpus or from you’re local indie bookseller, in which case you can join the club for free. But, “Books purchased from Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon are ineligible.” Take that big business!
“Freedom is my most autobiographical book,” [Franzen] says. “There is not a thing in it that actually happened to me, and yet it’s the book that draws most directly on my experience of being, and the path my life has taken. To take the lid off the innermost can of worms, which is what I feel I did in this book, I went to all the stuff I was most ashamed of, most uncomfortable writing about, stuff that was least resolved in me.”