Franzen connects with troubled youth in DC
Acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen was in Washington Friday for a visit to the DC Correctional Treatment Facility and a reading of his new novel "Freedom," at the Washington National Cathedral as the guest of PEN/Faulkner Foundation's Reading Series.
"This has to be the weirdest place I've ever read, " said the writer, looking out on the crowd in the palatial cathedral, to more than a few chuckles.
Dressed in jeans and a blazer with his signature black glasses, Franzen, 51, looked more like a hip college professor than the man Time magazine recently dubbed "the great American novelist."
After reading a few paragraphs from "Freedom," Franzen reflected on his experience earlier in the day with teenage boys who had been charged as adults for gun-related crimes, but have discovered their creativity through books and writing thanks to a non-profit called Free Minds.
Many of the boys shared their poetry with him and had taken inspiration from his essay collection "How to Be Alone," he said.
"It was gut wrenchingly good, " he said of their poems.
Franzen fans stood in a long queue in the Cathedral as he signed copies of "Freedom," and other noted works including "The Corrections," which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his memoir, "The Discomfort Zone."
He told Arts Post the Washington turnout was stronger than in other cities he has visited on his promotional tour, and that he is heartened by the bipartisan reactions to "Freedom," a novel with political undertones set in Washington, DC.
"It has a very sympathetic Republican character," he said, mitigating rumors that he had a philosophical agenda in writing it.
| February 21, 2011; 7:13 AM ET
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