Jonathan Franzen: What Happens If We No Longer Have Bookstore Readings?
This Week on The Writers Institute Podcast, From the Archives of the New York State Writers Institute
Books are written in solitude, but writers do some of their finest work with crowds—in public talks, interviews, and events. The best moments from those strange, dramatic interactions often go missing, however: either they’re never recorded, or nobody will ever find the recordings. Fortunately, the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany has been methodically recording thousands of writers’ events since 1983, when it was founded by the novelist William Kennedy.
The future of in-person author events seems shaky after years of remote book talks. What happens if we no longer have bookstore readings, library lectures, and interviews before live audiences? Jonathan Franzen tells Adam Colman in this episode, “If we lose live book events, I would experience it as a great loss.” He describes here the humor, community, and conversation at those gatherings.
Says Franzen: “To me, it’s consistently moving to do an event and look out at people who care about books and then to have a chance to find some kind of moment of connection.” Those connections with the public can be surprising, with results ranging from enduring correspondences to international incidents. (“I’ve never been invited back to Brazil,” Franzen says.)
Here, Jonathan Franzen also listens to Don DeLillo, Jamaica Kincaid, and Joseph Heller via the New York State Writers Institute’s archives, and he considers the links between his fiction, his public readings, and writing for the stage.
On this episode:
Jonathan Franzen (conversation with Adam Colman). Books: The Corrections and Crossroads
Don DeLillo (from the archives). Books: Underworld and Libra.
Joseph Heller (from the archives). Books: Catch-22 and Good as Gold
Margaret Atwood (from the archives). Books: The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake.
Jamaica Kincaid (from the archives). Books: Lucy and A Small Place.
William Kennedy (conversation with Adam Colman). Books: Roscoe and O Albany!.
Find out more about the New York State Writers Institute at www.nyswritersinstitute.org.
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Jonathan Franzen is the author of five novels, including The Corrections, Freedom, and Purity, and five works of nonfiction, most recently Farther Away and The End of the End of the Earth, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.