Oprah and Franzen finally meet: A little awkward, but don't worry, everything's good

frazen-oprahImage Credit: APNine years after a media storm erupted over comments Jonathan Franzen made in relation to his novel’s inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club, the Queen of All Media invited the author to her show today to discuss his new book, Freedom, as well as the kerfuffle now safely in their rearview mirror. You could have subtitled their discussion The Corrections; both Oprah and Franzen appeared eager to set the record straight about the sorta-feud. The two were a little tense during the minutes dedicated to going over that period in their shared history, with a commendably not-quite-contrite Franzen citing his unpreparedness with the soundbite-obsessed, controversy-hungry television media cycle as part of the reason why this particular molehill was turned into a mountain. “It was probably the big thing I learned from the experience, which was to have more respect for television,” he told Oprah. When asked about the impression of him as a “snob” he replied that he isn’t one at all, but rather a “Midwestern egalitarian.” Although, I’m not quite sure whether using the phrase “Midwestern egalitarian” actually helps or hurts him on this point.

Things were a little less awkward when they discussed the present day, hitting topics like Franzen’s 20-minute conversation with President Obama and his solitary writing process. For her part, Oprah was effusive in praising Freedom. What do you think, Shelf-Lifers? Happy to see the reconciliation, even nine years after the fact?

Comments (82 total) Add your comment
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  • Bettina

    Wait, what was his book called that Oprah selected?

    • Total Dip Stick

      The Secret.

      • Shiny

        It’s called “Moonglow.” It’s about shiny vampires who hang out in a coffee shop in New York called “Per Diem.” There’s the OCD one who has to count every matchstick and the ladies man with bat herpes. I smell a hit.

      • Nurse Love

        Great show and SwedenDatingSite was Amazing

    • Fan

      It’s called Freedom.

    • di

      Freedom is the name of his book and it’s really good.

    • Kristen

      it’s called The Secrets of Nostradamus

    • Antunis

      misektheman3 on September 29, 2009 I agree! If they just garaged it, it would still be new. The people who thought of this should have been buried in the tomb along with the car, what a bunch of idiots!

  • geg

    I love Oprah. Never read Franzen but it’s great that they put the controversy behind them and focused on what matters: READING!!!

    • C Men

      Does anyone else think Franzen looks like my 10th grade English teacher?

      • Kristen

        trick question– your 10th grade English teacher was a woman.

  • Art

    Log off of Facebook, stop tweeting, and get a copy to read (hard copy or electronic) of any of Jonathan Franzen’s works, especially The Corrections, Freedom, and How To Be Alone. In fact, The Corrections ought to be required reading and should figure prominently in high school English Literature curricula throughout the U.S.

    • Joseph

      I’m reading “The Corrections” right now and it is very good!

    • Greg


      • ZRob

        The Corrections was awesome, a wonderful novel. Really looking forward to Freedom as well.

    • Sharon

      I gave up about 1/3 of the way through Freedom. Tedious, repetitive.

      • Sylvia

        Can’t stand Oprah. She is the reason, because of her sheeple that obama is in the seat he is in. She is so socialist. Can’t even stand it. Sorry, but its true.

      • JoshC

        You clearly don’t know what a socialist actually is. You should take a political science class, and throw in a class on grammar, or at least manners.

      • Betsy

        Critisizing our president during time of war is giving aid and comfort to our enemies. Why do you hate America Sylvia?

      • Brenda Barrett

        Betsy, you’re an idiot. And, I don’t exactly agree with Sylvia, either. But I do blame Oprah for Obama getting his party’s nomination instead of Hilary, who should be president right now. I have no doubt she’d be doing a much better job than this thumb-twiddler.

    • Vonnegut’s Girl

      “The Corrections” was crap, just like “A Confederacy of Dunces” was–overblown, overlong, and without point or merit.

      • Vonnegut’s Girl

        Franzen’s work reminds me of those excerpts you find in Good Housekeeping or similar magazines–meant to make people think they are getting culture for the cost of a magazine.

      • Art

        Culture is dispensed in many formats. Is it automatically lower in value if it resides in the pages of a magazine or if it evokes such a format as you suggest?

      • Jen

        Vonnegut’s Girl, perhaps you need a reminder that pretty much every author we consider classic who wrote prior to the last century was first published in serial form. Magazines have a longstanding tradition of bringing culture to the masses and allowing great authors and artists to make high art while continuing to eat.

      • Stephen

        Sorry I can’t agree. Confederation of Dunces was screamingly funny. The main character was a painful trainwreck in slow motion and could only have been conceived by a marginally sane genius.

      • teddy


        Well, la de da.

      • Elaine

        A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the world’s great books.

      • jimbo

        Seeing that confederacy of dunces is one of the funnier books out there, the fact that you compared it with ‘the corrections’ only makes me more curious about franzen’s work…

    • Mel

      No way should The Corrections be taught in high school. Not for this reason, but although it’s no doubt well-written, it fits the adage that the two most depressing words in English are “literary fiction.”

  • JM Blevins

    Although a gifted writer, Franzen is over-rated. Standing up to Oprah nine years ago made his career. Without her, he would simply be another steady novel writer, which is all he is. Even his most complimentary reviews can’t argue with his lack of innovation.

    • Art

      I don’t think Franzen’s expressed reticence at receiving the almighty Oprah’s stamp of approval for The Corrections was a calculated career move/sales push, although that was the byproduct because of all the ensuing media coverage.

  • moni

    Freedom! Meh, it was aiight

  • Rolo Tomasi

    When he said Obama was his hero, that is when I changed the channel. If Obama is his hero, then he obviously had nothing interesting, nor intelligent to say.

    • DJ

      …much like your comment.

    • MelsBells

      Right On Rolo …..

      • Bfgkfd

        420greyfox on September 11, 2011 ffufereesterf.webs.com is a REAL place to earn cash in your pp account and points to spend on amazon products. Get clothing, electronics, ANYTHING!  wont you join me?

    • teddy

      Well, aren’t you the last word! IDIOT.

    • Liz

      Sometimes when I read these comment boards I wonder what has happened to courtesy and respect. There is definitely something to be gained from someone who has a different opinion from your own and when a healthy dialogue is created a person should be changed not necessarily their opinions but in your insight into the other side of the so called argument. So you like Obama you don’t like Obama…you like Oprah you don’t like Oprah…. the book is bad the book is good. Don’t call someone stupid because they don’t agree with you.

      • Cindy

        Thank you Liz. I think this is the first really good point I have ever read on these comment boards. Most of the time I have to stop reading them all together because people can be so rude and caustic to one another when they don’t agree.

      • max

        Liz, I completely disagree. You are so stupid.

      • MemphisMom

        Thanks, Liz.

      • Kristen

        God Liz, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Can it, Liz!

    • JoshC

      So, if someone disagrees with you or your political ideas, they are unintelligent and uninteresting? A diversity of ideas is good. The homogeneity of thought does not lead to anything good in society.

      • Mariefel

        aeaisnbabe on August 30, 2011 I like my body, because I am skinny and can wear clothes that are more tight and stunning. But sizes are always hard to find

    • mia

      I absolutely agree!

  • Sheila

    Honestly I have not liked Freedom since I started reading it. I can’t invest in the characters at all (shallow and boring) and there hasn’t been a plot to speak of yet. I am just putting it down. No desire to even continue slogging through any more of it. (I tried to post earlier and didn’t see it so if this is a duplicate just ignore).

    • dctoronto

      I felt the same way. I read about 3/4 of it then decided to give up. I had better books to read.

    • MemphisMom

      I agree. I’m just glad I checked it out from the library and didn’t pay for it…

  • Tim

    Oprah is a tool and anyone who listens to her crap, let alone advice, is an even bigger idiot.

    • Productive Citizen

      Ok, way to generalize. Why is she a tool? I think you maybe a talentless individual who most likely have achieved very little in your life. I can only assume these things because I do not know you; but your support-less comments lead me to that conclusion. I recommend that you pursue an education, it expands your mind more than you would think.

    • teddy

      Read the latest Oprah bio and you may discover the things about Oprah that you don’t like.

      • Big Walt

        What?! No! I don’t believe it. Everyone is perfect and great. No way I wouldn’t like something about Oprah.

  • MemphisMom

    I read Freedom a couple of weeks ago and aside from some things in the first chapter about old houses, urab neighborhoods and idiosyncratic kids, it was not that great. There were some chapter I read closely and some I skimmed. It was VERY uneven and over-rated.

    • MemphisMom

      Sorry-that was supposed to be urban…

  • Pork Rinds

    Cleared the air? 40 pounds of crack, it’s a good place for a stick-up!!

    • jimbo

      Too damn funny!

  • Paisley

    Both Franzen and Oprah are overrated, IMO. I started reading freedom and am quickly losing interest. Oprah has steadily lost lit cred in my eyes since the Million Pieces fiasco. But the most over-hyped of ‘em all is Obama. What a disappointment. He is no hero.

    • John Q

      If these people are overrated and a disappointment, why comment at all.

      • MemphisMom

        Why comment? If I can save one person from wasting their time and money, then it is worth it.

    • teddy

      Memphis Mom:

      Like your comments are golden? I don’t think so.

      • MemphisMom

        No, Teddy. I never claimed that my comments were golden, merely an opinion stated from my viewpoint. My original comment (not a comment on commenting) concerned how disappointed I was in the book given how much I related to the first chapter. I have lived parts of that chapter-the mental calculus on whether to call the police on the noisy drunk frat boys across the street at 3 am. Will they understand that my kids just need sleep on a school night or will they take a piss on my porch swing? I soemtimes use comments on boards like this as a way choose what I am going to spend my entertainment time on. I take the comments that are reasoned, backed up, polite and well written more into account than unsupported, rude ones. I hope that others take my comments in a like manner. Best Wishes Teddy.

      • MemphisMom

        oops, that was “sometimes”

  • p griffin

    I find it shallow and pedantic.

    • Chris

      You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means…

      • Big Walt

        It’s a quote from the Family Guy. He’s being funny.

  • Katharine

    I used to work at a used bookstore and it was annoying whenever a new Oprah pick came out. Since we were used, whatever it was, was almost guaranteed to not be in stock. People would get upset with us because we didn’t carry the pick. They’d storm out in frustration, and wouldn’t bother perusing the store for something else that caught there eye. Frankly, half of the fun of reading is discovering cool books on your own recognizance. I never understood the lemming mentality, but props to Oprah for getting non-readers to at least read something.

    • Katharine

      *their eye. Good grief.

      • hob

        What kind of yam head goes to a used bookstore expecting to find a just published book? Do these same people go to a video store expecting to rent a movie that was just released that Friday? I guess in that case they can pick up the mockbuster version, but still, sounds strange. This really happened all the time?

  • SmartPotato

    Intelligent person who refused to ride the self-serving, ego-maniac O Train finally sucks up?


  • bababooey

    “Queen of All Media”? Couldn’t have come up with something a little more original? Howard Stern is the only ROYALTY of All Media!!

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