BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Entertainment: Arts
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 21 January, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Franzen 'regrets' Oprah row
Best-selling author Jonathan Franzen told BBC HARDtalk presenter Tim Sebastian all about success, money and why he now regrets his fight with Oprah Winfrey.

Jonathan Franzen is as well known now for his spat with talk show host Oprah Winfrey as he is for his literature.

I think ultimately we each did the other a disservice

Franzen on his row with Oprah
Franzen and Winfrey fell out last year after the author was publicly reluctant to allow his book, The Corrections, to be named as book of the month for Winfrey's book club.

While most authors would welcome Winfrey's offer as a means of boosting sales, Franzen said he was worried her endorsement might affect his reputation in high-art circles.

Big egos

In response Oprah withdrew the offer and cancelled the traditional dinner party thrown in honour of the book of the month author.

Franzen told HARDtalk that despite remaining "ambivalent" about the Oprah book club accolade, he regrets making his reservations known publicly.

He said: "I think ultimately we did each the other a disservice. I would love to have gone on there [the Oprah Winfrey Show], but big egos and a certain wrestle for control of the situation derailed that."


Oprah's book club recommended Franzen's novel The Corrections
Despite the public row with Oprah the book went on to win the $10,000 (6,900) prize for fiction at the US National Book Awards in 2001. They described The Corrections as a novel with "a window on the American soul".

The Corrections tells the story of the lives of a Midwest American family as they try to come together for one final Christmas.

The New York Times Book Review said the book created "the illusion of giving a complete account of the world."

Franzen told Tim Sebastian that setting his stories in the current social climate was essential.

He said: "If I'm going to set out and write about a character I'm going to want to talk about both the interior stuff and also about the society around him or her. That's just part of doing a good job of being a as writer it seems to me."

Fame and fortune

Jonathan Franzen was born in 1959 in Western Springs, Illinois.

He has been named as one of the "Twenty Writers for the 21st Century" by The New Yorker.

In writing The Corrections Jonathan Franzen told HARDtalk he was not motivated by money or fame.

He said: "I was trying to write a book that would please me and that I would enjoy writing, in the hope that perhaps other people would enjoy reading it."

Although initially uncomfortable with his overnight success Franzen agrees that it has changed him and his life for the better.

He said: "That's the best part of success, I can just relax and now feel slightly embarrassed, but mostly disassociated."

Despite his attempt to make amends with Oprah, it remains to be seen whether she will again invite him on to her show.

Jonathan Franzen
"I wanted to write a book that would be entertaining"
See also:

15 Nov 01 | Arts
Franzen wins US book prize
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Arts stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Arts stories