The Best Jonathan Franzen Quotes from BEA

27 May 2015

Book Expo America opened today with a conversation between Jonathan Franzen and Laura Miller of Franzen’s new book, Purity, will be released on September 1, 2015.


The crowd for Franzen at BEA 2015

Here are our favorite quotes from the interview:

For laughs:

“I’m searching your words for implicit criticism” (the opening remark from Franzen)

“I wasn’t nervous when I got on stage, but I am getting increasingly so”

On writing:

“It gets harder to write novels, not easer.”

“People are not generally as funny or well-spoken in life as they are on the page. ”

“I was not fully in control of what I was doing with my first novels”

“Plotting is easy. Story is not the same as plot. It has to be character driven to work”

“I don’t like them better, but I like them almost as much” – in answer to “Do you like your characters better than people?

“If it’s an adventure for the writer some of that will rub off on the reader. ”

On Purity, his new book:

“I have no idea where the story came from” – in response to the question: Where did you get the idea for Purity?

“Frankly, I took money from people for the book. So I wanted to write a readable, page-turning book. I want the reader to finish the book, to get to the end of it, and then decide if they liked it or not.”

“It helps to start with a character in an untenable, anxiety-producing situation. So something has to change right off the bat. People under stress also tend to be funny.”

“Pip says what she thinks. A lot. She has outbursts. People think she is a hostile person. I have a lot of sympathy for hostile people.”

“A long chapter on an icky guy is still icky. But if he loves somebody it may redeem him enough to take the edge of that ickyness.”

“I kept wishing I could come up with another title. The letters PUR – something about them is icky.”

“What’s a novel without some irony”

On free speech:

“I am certainly not going to take back my support for free speech because of Russell Brand. ”

“I think new technologies foster conformism because shaming is so intense in new media. Even though its supposed to be free speech, a lot of self-censorship is happening. ”

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Ricci Wolman is founder and CEO of Written Word Media, whose mission is to empower authors to reach their audience and sell more books. Ricci started Freebooksy, Written Word’s first book promotion site, in 2012 to help her mom, an author, publish and market her book. Ricci has over 10 years of experience building online audiences. She is a data geek, a book lover and a mom. She also holds an MBA from Harvard University.