Feature

The epic tale of Jonathan Franzen's glasses

Someone stole the bestselling author's famous spectacles, then briefly demanded a $100,000 ransom. Let the jokes begin

Author Jonathan Franzen was minding his own business at the London launch for his bestselling novel "Freedom," when someone snatched the glasses off his face and ran, leaving a note demanding $100,000 for their return. Police found the suspect hiding in a bush, but released him after Franzen declined to press charges for what his representative called a "harmless prank." The alleged culprit, a 27-year-old graduate student named James Fletcher, says in British GQ that he just did it because he was bored, and drunk. That didn't stop literary observers from offering their own opinions:

Even successful nerds can't get a break"The bad thing about being a literary nerd is, even when you grow up to become a successful author, you're still a target of bullies," says Nate Jones at Time. Still, "Franzen can take solace in this: How many other authors are famous enough for their accessories that someone would consider stealing them?"

A more interesting motive would have been nice It's disappointing that the culprit was just a disaffected gatecrasher, says Willa Paskin at New York. "We were sort of hoping" that the thief had some "larger agenda" — perhaps "an Oprah revanchist" or "a member a fringe group morally opposed to near-sightedness."

New fodder for a Franzen book? Franzen may have handled the fracas with aplomb, says Ray Gustini at The AtlanticWire, but as a melancholic writer, he did "reserve the right to spend 10 years brooding over the incident." 

It's more worthy of a pulp novel Fletcher's account "comes complete with intrigue, danger, and a high-concept justification of the act as art," says Nate Freeman at The New York Observer. "The entire operation is indebted to the same things that inspire so many other feats of derring-do: Boredom, excessive champagne, and an overwhelming infatuation with another man's spectacles."

At least everybody got a laugh out of it"One of the funniest things to come out of this incident," says Jay Hathaway at Urlesque, "was posted by a fake Franzen Twitter account: 'TO THE THIEF WHO STOLE MY GLASSES: I need them back to read your friggin' ransom note. Idiot.'"

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