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News & Features » April 2013 » Literary Lions: 11 Questions with Jonathan Franzen

Literary Lions: 11 Questions with Jonathan Franzen

Johnny Temple: Who’s the first person who encouraged you to be a writer?


Photo credit: Kathy Chetkovich

Jonathan Franzen: My ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Flug, who also happened to be the prettiest teacher at my junior high.

JT: What is your biggest pet peeve?

JF: Traffic instructions painted on the road in reverse order, so that if you’re aiming high in your steering, the way we’re all taught to, and reading top to bottom, the way English readers do, you find yourself facing nonsense like XING PED, or even (I’ve seen it) dangerous nonsense like BUS TO YIELD.

JT: What book has given you nightmares, or otherwise appeared to you in dreams?

JF: I remember having Proust dreams when I was reading Proust, and New York dreams when I was reading The Power Broker. Not long ago I had a sort-of nightmare involving Philip Roth, but it wasn’t tied to any book of his that I’d been reading.

JT: What is the worst film adaptation of a great book that you have ever seen?

JF: Hard to top the Gatsby with Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan.

JT: If you could invite one deceased person to dinner, who would it be?

JF: I’m tempted to say Franz Kafka, but I fear the dinner would be socially painful for him. So I guess I’d have to say Jesus. If he counts as still deceased.

JT: Who (living) do you wish would invite YOU to dinner?

JF: It would be a very good sign for US / North Korean relations if Kim Jong-un invited a person like me to dinner.

JT: Have you ever been to a town hall meeting?

JF: Sadly, contentious New York City co-op meetings are the closest I’ve come.

JT: Who’s your favorite author (or book) that no one’s ever heard of?

JF: In the truly unheard-of category, there’s Rebecca Lee’s beautiful The City Is a Rising Tide. Slightly less unheard-of: James Purdy’s Eustace Chisholm and The Works.

JT: Who’s your favorite author that everyone’s heard of?

JF: Charles M. Schulz.

JT: What’s your favorite single syllable word?

JF: Yikes.

JT: If you could make up a word, what would it be? No definitions permitted.


JONATHAN FRANZEN is the author of four novels (FreedomThe CorrectionsStrong Motion, and The Twenty-Seventh City), two essay collections (Farther Away, How to Be Alone), a memoir (The Discomfort Zone), and a translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.

Posted: Apr 24, 2013

Category: Literary Lions | Tags: , ,