The media furor over the Oprah Book Club’s selection and eventual excommunication of Jonathan Franzen, from the author’s perspective.
Beginning the next night, in Chicago, I’ll encounter two kinds of readers in signing lines and in interviews. One kind will say to me, essentially, “I like your book and I think it’s wonderful that Oprah picked it,” the other kind will say, “I like your book and I’m so sorry that Oprah picked it.” And, because I’m a person who instantly acquires a Texas accent in Texas, I’ll respond in kind to each kind of reader. When I talk to admirers of Winfrey, I’ll experience a glow of gratitude and good will and agree that it’s wonderful to see television expanding the audience for books. When I talk to detractors of Winfrey, I’ll experience the bodily discomfort I felt when we were turning my father’s oak tree into schmalz, and I’ll complain about the Book Club logo. I’ll get in trouble for this. I’ll achieve unexpected sympathy for Dan Quayle when, in a moment of exhaustion in Oregon, I conflate “high modern” and “art fiction” and use the term “high art” to describe the importance of Proust and Kafka and Faulkner to my writing. I’ll get in trouble for this, too. Winfrey will disinvite me from her show because I seem “conflicted.” I’ll be reviled from coast to coast by outraged populists. I’ll be called a “motherfucker” by an anonymous source in New York, a “pompous prick” in Newsweek, an “ego-blinded snob” in the Boston Globe, and a “spoiled, whiny little brat” in the Chicago Tribune. I’ll consider the possibility, and to some extent believe, that I am all of these things. I’ll repent and explain and qualify, to little avail. My rash will fade as mysteriously as it blossomed; my sense of dividedness will only deepen.
::Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker: ‘Meet me in St. Louis’