Jonathan Franzen, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ Book Club and the rise of the Frustrated White Male

Alg_franzen_winfrey_interviewAlexander Nazaryan in the New York Daily News:

“Patty went even more overboard with Total Jockworld than most, because she could! Because she’d finally escaped from Westchester!”

The above was written by America’s finest author, in his most acclaimed novel, which has been called “the book of the century.”

And they wonder why Americans aren’t reading.

That author is Jonathan Franzen, and he appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Monday, nine years after she picked “The Corrections” for her Book Club. Back then, Franzen responded peevishly, claiming the mantle of “the high-art literary tradition” and complaining, “I see this as my book, my creation, and I didn’t want that logo of corporate ownership on it.”

Because redemption is a favorite theme of Oprah’s, it made perfect sense for her to give Franzen a second chance. And needing book sales, he took it.

He sat awkwardly with his hands on his knees, pretending to smile while Oprah leaned back, her legs casually crossed. She hugged him, too, though I think this was less a show of genuine goodwill than a reminder that while many thousands may read Franzen, many millions watch Oprah.

In a nod to Oprah, Franzen said he had “more respect for television” since the “Corrections” fiasco and claimed – with a straight face – that he was a “Midwestern egalitarian.” She called him “one of the best writers in the world” – a hyperbolic statement, absent of value, the kind of thing Americans have become too good at.

It’s a shame that Oprah let Franzen off so easy, without touching upon the fatal flaws in his work. Four years ago, she demolished James Frey because she discovered, after anointing his “A Million Little Pieces” to her club, that it was not a memoir, but a work of fiction passed off as truth.