Book Fight!

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 If you have access to a university library you can probably get hold of an archived version of the journal, which is how we tracked it down.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.

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