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Tough love for literature

Spring of Success: Jonathan Franzen (“Facts”)


In this week’s edition of The Spring of Success, we’re discussing Jonathan Franzen’s first published story, which he apparently wrote while an undergraduate at Swarthmore, though it wasn’t published until several years later, in Fiction International. As far as we can tell, the story isn’t available online. If you have access to a university library you can probably get hold of an archived version of the journal, which is how we tracked it down. But, as always, you don’t need to read the story to listen to (and enjoy) the show.

In fact a lot of what we discuss this week is Jonathan Franzen’s arc of success more generally. His early ambitions, his writing habits, his post-college job and how it helped him carve out time to write his first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City. That book got a big release and a strong marketing push, though while it met with some critical success it wasn’t really until Franzen’s third novel, The Corrections, that he broke through to a wider audience.

Here’s a photo of the author just chilling on the beach like a boss (not pictured: birds).


We also talk about the strong Franzen backlash, much of which seems to happen on social media (with which he’s chosen not to engage). Why do people hate him so much? Is it his work? Or some perception of him, as a person? And if it’s the latter, is that perception earned? Is the hate even particular to Franzen, or would it accrue to any literary novelist who got big enough to have his face on Time Magazine?

We wrestle with all that and more this week, so check out the episode. And let us know in the comments, or via email or Twitter, what you think.

You can listen, as always, right here on our site. Or you can visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you get your podcasts: subscribe (for free) and make sure you never miss another weekly installment.

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Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

3 thoughts on “Spring of Success: Jonathan Franzen (“Facts”)

  1. Good show, you stayed focused and really covered a lot of ground about Franzen.

    I’ve never gotten the extremes of his reputation one way or another. He clearly doesn’t deserve the contempt and hate he gets on Twitter, but having read THE CORRECTIONS and FREEDOM, I fail to see what so many people find inspiring about his work. Don’t get me wrong, those books were certainly engaging, but if we were using movie analogies, I’d say they were more on the level of your TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS or YOU GOT MAIL.

    Also, I’m amazed you went through the entire episode without once calling Franzen a “white man”.

  2. Great episode. I’m a Franzen fan, but I can see why he comes off as a crank, though I too don’t understand the high amount of vitriol directed his way. Emily Gould wrote a pretty good piece on the subject –

  3. We seem to have an inordinate number of Chrises listening to this show, and I’d like to let future Chrises know we’re at capacity.

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