Count me in as one of the legions of Franzenites. I’ve been a enthusiastic fan since The Twenty-seventh City (1988) and I still count Strong Motion (1992) as one of my faves. The guy can write! But can he make videos? No! He cannot!
But Franzen’s a wily one. He begins this little–well, I’m not sure what this is–this little thing about his new book Freedom by giving a half-hearted apology:
“This might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this. To me, the point of a novel is to take you to a still place. You can multitask with a lot of things, but you can’t really multitask reading a book. You’re either reading a book or you’re not. To me, the world of books is the quiet alternative, an ever more desperately needed alternative. I understand that not everyone sees it that way; I understand that a lot of commerce happens online now–so I think it makes eminently good sense to be recording little videos like this.”
Then he goes on to talk about the book. I’ll give to Franzen: he makes a very compelling case that he has no business appearing in such videos. The lighting, the mumbling, the lack of context, the lack of interest–it’s a shining example of everything to avoid in your own author video.
Verdict: Fail. But Franzen seems to know this, expect it, and not really give a damn. It’s not like he wanted to do it. (And it’s not like he needs more press. ) Dull as this is, is won’t dissuade fans, me included.