book fest festivities
Franzen and Freedom: Texas Book Festival presents a conversation with theNational Book Award winner
This Friday, October 14th, the Texas Book Festival presents a conversation between acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen and Time Magazinecritic Lev Grossman. Held at the Bass Concert Hall, tickets for the event range from $10 - $38, with special discounts for season pass holders.
The 2010 National Book Award winner, who splits his time between New York City and sunny California, is still riding high on the wave of success generated by last year’s Freedom. The novel, his first published volume since 2007 memoir The Discomfort Zone (and his first novel since 2001’s The Corrections) didn’t just earn the NBA, it inspired an avalanche of praise from critics across the globe—including media giantess Oprah, who was so moved by Freedom that she selected it for her famous Book Club (despite the fact that Franzen publicly rejected a similar offer made in 2001).
That’s not the only drama Franzen’s been involved with; as fast as Freedom rocketed him to spectacular fame, it also inspired quite a bit of backlash, a literary community flare-up that blazed hot for weeks. Shortly after the novel’s release, an army of writers, headed by bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, led a Twitter-based conversation on #franzenfreude, defined by Weiner as “taking pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen." An American male writer focusing largely on the experience of the American male, Franzen—and the media that extensively covers him—has fielded accusations of perpetuating the publishing industry “boy’s club” mentality by creating work aimed at and focusing on the traditionally dominant class.
He’s also come under fire from hardcore David Foster Wallace fans who feel his published reflections on the pair’s friendship is more fueled by self-promotion than sadness; while there’s no doubt that the two were close friends, some feel that Franzen’s statements (which include lines like “it was still hard not to feel wounded by the part of him that had chose the adulation of strangers over the love of the people closest to him”) are made more to claim closeness to the late, great DFW. (And then, there's this: at The New Yorker Festival earlier this week, Franzen allegedly accused Wallace of fabricating some of his well-known nonfiction work.)
Franzen’s career has been particularly interesting to follow as a result of all these very public issues; rarely does an intensely literary writer make mainstream news, even less frequently inspiring such heated debate. It’s a testament to the strength of Franzen’s work that so many feel so close (or far) from it that they want to tell the world, so viscerally affected by his prose that it causes them to inspect their own lives and the world around them.
Of course, all of the above reflects more on our current literary climate than on the author himself. The best way to understand the author is to hear what he has to say, in his own words; this 2010 interview with NPR’s Fresh Air is a good start, an exploration on both the literary and personal meanings of “freedom.”
With all cultural footnotes aside Franzen is, above all else, a writer able to immerse readers in the beauty of the daily routine like nearly no other (Wallace, fittingly, being his stiffest competition, in this writer’s opinion). Both The Corrections and Freedom create families with bonds so strong and internal narratives so complex that it’s shocking how close we feel to them after a few hundred pages; even when they’re unattractive, so relatable because we see our own neuroses and shortcomings in their exaggerated faults, they’re painted beautifully.
This is all to say that Franzen’s words make for fascinating conversations—which is exactly what we’re looking forward to experiencing this Friday at Bass Concert Hall. There’s no better way to kick off the Texas Book Festival that with one of the few current writers able to inspire such passion in both readers and writers alike.
If you’d like to get a book signed, you must purchase it at the event; BookPeople will be on hand with copies of Franzen’s titles.
We recommend buying tickets in advance, as this event will likely sell out.