I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I've heard more than one reader in signing lines now at bookstores say "if I hadn't heard of you, 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.
As a result of those comments, Oprah rescinded her invitation for him to appear on her show and a number of media critics accused Franzen of snobbery.
Fast forward nine years and Franzen's back on Oprah's radar for his widely-praised novel Freedom. As one might expect with anything Oprah-related, forgiving and forgetting was a centerpiece of the interview. She was the first to broach the subject:
Oprah: "The impression most people got was ... you were being a snob. Is that true?"
Franzen: "I am a Midwestern egalitarian. I do not think of myself as a snob."
Offering a quasi-apology, Franzen suggested that he was misquoted on television:
What happened ... I spoke in very long sentences, and little pieces of those sentences sounded bad, and your feelings were probably understandably hurt, and next thing we knew it had become this thing. And I think it was probably the right decision to let everything cool down ... The big thing I learned from the experience, was to have more respect for television. Writers I think resent, they fear, they envy television because it's so powerful and omnipresent. And if you don't respect the power that it has, then you don't figure out how to communicate in a televised age. You talk like a writer, but things are happening at this TV velocity.
If you watch the clip, available here, Oprah responds very positively to Franzen and they both appear quite taken with each other. Case closed? Perhaps not. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Franzen expressed doubts about the broadcast:
So, did he have fun on the show? "I don't think fun is the right word," Franzen responded. "It was work. There were no disasters."
Franzen... still hasnt quite figured out Winfrey. "I think I like her more than she likes me," Franzen says.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.