Speed Reads


Jonathan Franzen was going to adopt an Iraqi war orphan because he felt 'alienated' from young people

It was Jonathan Franzen's editor who eventually talked him out of adopting an Iraqi war orphan, but for six weeks he thought it sounded like a good idea.

"Oh, it was insane," Franzen assured The Guardian in a preview of his upcoming interview with their weekend magazine.

Franzen, who has been dubbed the "Great American Novelist" by Time, authored the National Book Award-winning The Corrections in 2001, Freedom in 2010, and will publish his newest book, Purity, this fall. But while things obviously worked out okay for Franzen without having to objectify a refugee, in a 2010 interview with The Telegraph Franzen claimed the Iraqi orphan plan was supposed to help his creative process. (Franzen added that his horrified editor, Henry Finder, responded to the idea by taking "two toothpicks from the bar and [making] the sign of the cross and [waving] it slowly in front of me as if warding off an evil spirit.")

"One of the things that put me in mind of adoption was the sense of alienation from the younger generation," Franzen explained to The Guardian. "They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry. And they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me."

His editor suggested a better way to fix his "get off my lawn" attitude — by hooking up Franzen with university grads. "It cured me of my anger at young people," Franzen said. Glad that's settled.