The Franzen Phenomenon
Oprah: What do you think happened?
Jonathan: It's a long time ago.
Jonathan: One can be forgiven for forgetting. One could be encouraged to forget. You know, I spoke in very long sentences. And then little pieces of the sentences sounded bad, and your feelings were probably understandably hurt. Next thing we knew, it had become this thing. And I think it was probably the right decision to just let everything cool down.
Oprah: Were you surprised by the media velocity?
Jonathan: Yes. Totally. It was probably the big thing I learned from the experience, which was to have more respect for television. Writers I think resent, they fear, they envy television because it's so powerful and omnipresent. I think you don't respect the power that it has, and then you don't figure out how to communicate. In a televised age, you talk like a writer, but things are happening at this kind of TV velocity.
Oprah: But I have to tell you, the reason I had to go back and read the press clips is because I was thinking: "Did I cancel the book club? I don't think I did." What I actually said was, "All right, if you were uncomfortable..." and the impression at the time was that you were being a snob.
Oprah: That's the impression most people got. And was that true or not?
Jonathan: I am a Midwestern egalitarian. I do not think of myself as a snob. My idea of the book I want to write, the book I want to read, is one that everybody can find a way to connect to. That's really what I've devoted my career to.
Oprah: That's what you do.
Jonathan: Exactly. But the problem is in the accelerated media scape, if you say, "I don't want to scare away male readers," that comes through as "Franzen can't stand women readers." ... When you have a polarized cultural environment too, the two things go together very quickly to hero/villain sort of polarity.
Oprah: You know they're looking for whatever they can.
Oprah: Well, the bottom line is I'm happy to have you.
Jonathan: I'm happy to be here.