Jonathan Franzen

Do you regret your run-in with Oprah?

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Like James Frey, Jonathan Franzen had a colorful public controversy with Oprah and her book club. Given the chance to do it over, would the author of The Corrections handled it differently?

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is an award-winning American novelist and essayist. Franzen was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and educated at Swarthmore College. He also studied on a Fulbright Scholarship in Germany. He lives on the Upper East Side of New York City, and writes for The New Yorker magazine. Franzen's "The Corrections," a novel of social criticism, garnered considerable critical acclaim in the United States. It became one of the best-selling works of literary fiction of the 21st century and won both the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.


Question: Do you regret your run-in with Oprah?

Jonathan Franzen: Do I regret any part of that experience? All these years later, it’s hard.  Yeah, sure, as a writer you regret how long it takes to you fully figure out what the real situation was. And I want to rewrite it in my head and know the whole thing, rather than only part of it.

So I think it’s hard to find fault though. I mean regret really means; what does regret mean? It’s not like I wasn’t trying very hard to do my best.

Some of these things just have to play out the way they play out.

Question: If you could do it again, would you want to be part of her book club?

Jonathan Franzen: Yeah, I never really had any problem with that. It was probably not a great fit.  The world kind of divides it into people that, one, opinion of Oprah Winfrey, and people who have the diametrically opposite opinion. That’s a remarkable thing to achieve, to divide the world in two. You’re sort of parting the seas.

I think I feel some confidence, she’d be comfortable with the magnitude of that image.

Recorded On: April 1, 2008