Jonathan Franzen: A Defense
Like so many of the great debates of our time, the Franzen/Oprah dust-up reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live bit—in this case, Phil Hartman's "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer." Here's Hartman as the titular Neanderthal, arguing a case in court:
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes when I fly to Europe on the Concorde, I wonder, am I inside some sort of giant bird? Am I gonna be digested? I don't know, because I'm a caveman, and that's the way I think! When I'm courtside at a Knicks game, I wonder if the ball is some sort of food they're fighting over …
Like Jodi, I don't buy Franzen's Unfrozen Caveman Author routine. (He writes blindfolded? Come on!) He should've stuck to his guns. If Oprah's logo makes him uneasy, bully for him for saying so, and he has nothing to apologize for. And Jodi, I think you're being unfair when you accuse him of judging his own book by its cover. Of course he cares about the way his novel is marketed, as well he should. When you publish your best-selling memoirs, will you be as indifferent to what's on the cover as you expect Franzen to be?