Jonathan Franzen Packs the House

By Maryann Yin Comment

9780374158460.jpgMore than 1,000 people showed up at the Union Square branch of Barnes & Noble last night to be entertained by Jonathan Franzen and his new book, Freedom.

The Barnes & Noble media manager introduced Franzen, praising his writing and highlighting his literary achievements. Much to the audience’s delight, Franzen bowed his head and sheepishly covered his face with his bag. When he stepped up to the podium, he opened up saying, “Hi. New York is the hardest place to read. I don’t know why.”

When Franzen reads, he really reads. He selected a “somewhat abridged version of the first half of the first chapter” for the reading. Upon finishing he said, “That clocked in at 38 minutes or something. I love you NY.” Everybody clapped in appreciation and then came the questions.

One audience member asked if Franzen would ever write one novel per year versus one novel per decade. His succinct response, “No.” Then, one questioner asked about his Time magazine cover that called him to a great American novelist. Franzen added a few more authors he thought deserved the same title. He named Edith Wharton, Paul Fox, and John Steinbeck.

Someone else asked “Has Oprah been in touch?” He answered: “Next question please.” Final query, “What’s next?” Franzen intends to finish touring, dive into more environmental journalism (he published an essay in the New Yorker last year about saving birds), and wait for “a delayed and sustained reaction to essentially all the good things happening [to him] right now.”