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About a decade ago, Jonathan Franzen asked for his novel The Corrections to be withdrawn from Oprah's Book Club. Now Oprah Winfrey is pestering Franzen again by inducting the author's latest novel, Freedom, into her book club.
The announcement is something of a surprise, considering that Franzen's earlier comments about the book club were interpreted by many to be rather scornful. As he said on Fresh Air in 2001, shortly after The Corrections became an Oprah pick:
So much of reading is sustained in this country, I think, by the fact that women read while men are off golfing or watching football on TV or playing with their flight simulator or whatever. ... I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I've heard more than one reader in say, "If I hadn't heard you [at a reading], I would have been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women. I would never touch it." Those are male readers speaking.
These comments prompted Oprah to rescind Franzen's invitation to appear on her show, and the literary world branded the writer a snob. Freedom hasn't been free from gender-related controversy either. Female writers like Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner have very publicly complained about the media's adulation for Franzen, stating that the New York Times only likes books by "white men from Brooklyn." [Franzen lives in Manhattan.]
Those wondering how the generally media-shy Franzen will react might already have their answer; when asked earlier this month about the prospect of Oprah selecting Freedom for her club, he responded, "I would be happy if she did."