[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004, 17:31 GMT
Franzen warns political writers
Jonathan Franzen
Franzen does not believe any new book will be coming soon
Writer Jonathan Franzen has warned authors not to attempt to lecture people on the subject of politics - as he doubts anyone is interested in what they have to say.

Many writers, columnists and editors became involved in the political debate surrounding the recent presidential election in the US.

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter broke a long history of independence to write a book criticising George W Bush, while Bonfire of the Vanities writer Tom Wolfe threw himself behind the incumbent president.

But Franzen - author of The Corrections, How To Be Alone and The 27th City - advised them all to save their breath.

"People care incrementally a little bit less about what a novelist has to say on the subject of politics," Franzen told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"I think the erosion is steady, thankfully slow, but unless you're John Grisham - and even if you are John Grisham - who cares?

"In America you might sway the 150,000 already converted, and make yourself look like an ass in the process."

Preserving the novel

Franzen shot to fame with The Corrections, his third novel, focused on the saga of an American family being brought together to celebrate Christmas.

The book was a massive hit, although Franzen then sparked controversy when he refused to allow it to be selected by Oprah Winfrey as her Book Of The Month, arguing that to do so implied endorsement for both him and her.

Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe was vociferous in his support for President Bush
But denied reports that he had subsequently come to "hate" The Corrections.

He insisted he remained very proud of it, but was "just am sick of reading from it and talking about it."

Meanwhile Franzen stressed to the importance of preserving the form of the novel.

"I feel there is an opportunity for this really magical, symbolic contact between people separated by time and space, that you can get with the written word, that you can't get any other way," he said.

"There is no way, really, for someone to make a movie all by himself or herself, that will then be distributed and enjoyed by completely solitary individuals.

"I think the magic of these dead letters on the dead page is that once you surmount the difficulty of deciphering those characters, there is no boundary.

"I feel closer to Kafka and Tolstoy than I do to Steven Spielberg, and I think there's nothing Spielberg could do to make me feel otherwise."

No book soon

Speaking about his process of writing, he said he enjoyed it.

"I'm plunged into this place where I'm thinking about this completely imaginary character whose existence consists of these marks on the page," Franzen said.

Oprah Winfrey
Franzen clashed with Oprah Winfrey over her book club
"I'm affording them the kind of respect and quiet reading interest I afford myself when I'm lying awake at four in the morning."

He said that this was the time when he felt most nervous and anxious - but also when he did his best writing.

Franzen added he found these feelings made him realise he was alive, and would prompt him to write eight or 10 words down - "something to start with the next morning".

"It doesn't happen often, but that's usually where the good starts come from," he said.

Meanwhile he played down any hope that he would be completing a new book any time soon.

"I've been saying 2017," he said.

"But I'm afraid that in the spirit of proper pessimism we're going to revise that to 2023."

Franzen and Uglow win book award
05 Sep 03 |  Entertainment
The Corrections on Impac list
20 Mar 03 |  Entertainment
Billy director targets The Corrections
25 Jan 02 |  Entertainment

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


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific