final round

Jonathan Franzen and Oprah Hash It Out

Jonathan Franzen went on Oprah yesterday ostensibly to discuss his novel Freedom, currently Oprah’s Book Club’s selection, but actually they had a public kiss and make up about their 2001 The Corrections dustup. Franzen only appeared on the show for about ten minutes total, and after a generous introduction and some chatter about Obama, Oprah was all like, “I barely remember what went down, why don’t you explain why you acted all weird the last time?” and kicked it to Franzen. Franzen sweetly and somewhat sheepishly explained himself, in a show of good intentions that played better on TV than it will in writing. See in particular this exchange: “The impression most people got was … you were being a snob. Is that true?” “I am a Midwestern egalitarian. I do not think of myself as a snob.” In writing, it’s all misplaced eggheadedness; on TV, it’s all, “Aw, get this guy some more media training!”

Here’s what else Franzen said:

“One could be forgiven for forgetting [what happened with The Corrections]. One could be encouraged to forget. What happened … I spoke in very long sentences, and little pieces of those sentences sounded bad, and your feelings were probably understandably hurt, and next thing we knew it had become this thing. And I think it was probably the right decision to let everything cool down … The big thing I learned from the experience, was to have more respect for television. Writers I think resent, they fear, they envy television because it’s so powerful and omnipresent. And if you don’t respect the power that it has, then you don’t figure out how to communicate in a televised age. You talk like a writer, but things are happening at this TV velocity.”

It sounds better when you watch it:

After that, Oprah and Franzen chatted pretty superficially about the book for a few more minutes, as if Oprah were generously trying to indicate Franzen’s fears of television were not entirely unfounded:

Jonathan Franzen and Oprah Hash It Out