In October 2001
, Franzen achieved literary notoriety
in America, not only for his critically acclaimed and best-selling novel
, The Corrections
, but for being the first author
to publicly express doubts about being chosen by Oprah Winfrey
for her Book Club
. Franzen, long a critic of TV culture, suggested that he was considering turning down the honor
, because her book club logo
on his book's jacket
was advertising for her television show. In addition, the honor would mean joining the company of Joyce Carol Oates
and Toni Morrison
, but also lesser known authors that Franzen doesn't respect:
She's picked some good books, but she's picked enough schmaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe... I feel like I'm
solidly in the high-art literary tradition, but I like to read entertaining books and this maybe helps bridge the gap, but it also heightens these feelings of being misunderstood.
The New York
literary and publishing
community is mostly siding with Oprah, accusing Franzen of being a snob
. According to the New York Times, Franzen's publisher printed 500,000 extra copies upon the news that Oprah had selected the book-- she holds that much clout
in the industry-- which could net Franzen up to $1.5 million USD in royalties. Franzen's comments were thought to jeopardize
his chances of winning the National Book Award
, as they honored Oprah Winfrey with a medal
for her contribution to literacy
in America just a few years ago--but he won anyway. Franzen has since retracted his statements, his publisher is releasing the book both with and without the Oprah Book club logo, and the excess publicity has certainly maintained interest in his novel (a best seller before this controversy anyway).
Franzen now has the distinction of being the only author ever disinvited from appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show, and his book will not be discussed on her show.
David D. Kirkpatrick, "'Oprah' Gaffe by Jonathan Franzen Draws
Ire and Sales," New York Times, October 29, 2001.
Lawrence Donegan, "Oprah's logo is a no go for novelist" The Guardian, October 28, 2001,