The Best Moments from Jonathan Franzen’s Appearance on Oprah


The road to Jonathan Franzen’s appearance on Oprah has been a long and fraught one. There was the whole debacle of Oprah uninviting him to the show after Franzen publicly expressed concerns that having the Oprah Book Club seal on his previous novel The Corrections would discourage men from reading the book, and the ensuing media speculation and brouhaha. And then, Oprah named Franzen’s latest offering, Freedom, as the first book club installment of her latest and last season. We turned in because we’re suckers for a dramatic confrontation. Skip below to read the best moments of when Jonathan met Oprah, nine years later. (Spoiler: There was no couch-jumping)

Oprah introducing Franzen to the audience: “I’ve been waiting a long time to meet this next guest.” (knowing audience laughter) “Don’t start with me, people.”

Franzen on meeting Obama: “I got summoned to the White House. Someone told me that I had 20 minutes with Obama, which I was told was an eternity. And it kind of felt like one, I mean what do you talk about? I said, ‘You’re my hero,’ and that left 19 minutes and 45 seconds.”

Franzen on the cover of Time: “As I understand it, when I was suggested in the spring, the response was like someone had seen a unicorn.”

When Oprah and Franzen went over their kerfuffle over The Corrections:

Oprah: I remember I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable… I had to read the press clips to see what actually happened.

Franzen: One could be encouraged to forget. I spoke in very long sentences. Little pieces of those sounded bad. And your feelings were probably understandably hurt.

Franzen on the moral of that whole story: “The big thing I learned from the experience was to have more respect for television. Writers resent television because its so omnipresent. You don’t remember how to communicate on a television level.”

When Oprah asked Franzen how he felt about being called an elitist: “I am a midwestern egalitarian. I don’t think of myself as a snob.”

Franzen commenting on Oprah’s new Book Club selection, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations: “Oh yeah. It’s a pageturner.”