Jonathan Franzen Brings "Freedom" to L.A.
LA Times columnist and novelist Meghan Daum summed up this notion of being in the presence of a living legend when she introduced Franzen as the most famous novelist in the country. “You are as famous as Lady Gaga,” she told a slightly frightened Franzen who rolled up his sleeves as he sat down for the interview part of the evening.
The Library Foundation of Los Angeles brought the 51-year-old Chicago native to the Aratani/ Japan America Theatre in little Tokyo on Thursday as part of its acclaimed ALOUD series of lectures, readings and discussions to introduce the city’s book lovers to his new book “Freedom”. He read passages from the novel that spans three decades in the lives of the Berglund family, following them through failure, love, rock and roll and change.
“There was a general sense of worry what was happening with the world as a whole,” Franzen said, answering Daum’s question whether or not he was worried about the state of the parent-child-relationship and overpopulation. He wanted to write a family romance, the author said. Family and especially kids seemed very useful to him as inspiration.
“But it is not the best reason to have kids so I can have problems with them and then write about the difficulties,” Franzen told his amused audience in the sold-out theater.
“All of me wants to write a book that argues for the novel as a form,” the author explained to the audience. He even tried to produce “unfilmable” work, he added almost within shouting distance of Hollywood where a director is working on turning his last two novels in to movies.
In the past, the boyish-looking novelist had expressed concern about the state of literature in America. In his on-stage conversation with Daum, he appeared more confident that the genre would find its audience and take the place it deserves in society.
“In a novel you can turn a story around repeatedly and constantly,” he described why - in his view - books are superior to movies. “I want a book to be an experience,” Franzen said.
It was up to the readers if they took this experience any further and thought about what it means to them in a time where people are always busy tweeting and updating their Facebook status. Reading a book puts people in a state where they are allowed to be a person, to have an identity, Franzen explained.
“And maintaining an identity is the most important thing in a democracy.”