Jonathan Franzen '81 First Living American Novelist on Time Cover in Decade

Alisa Giardinelli

Jonathan Franzen '81 First Living
American Novelist on Time Cover in Decade

by Alisa Giardinelli
8/16/10

Jonathan Franzen '81

This week, Jonathan Franzen '81, author of The Corrections, became the first living American novelist to be featured on a Time cover in a decade. His fourth novel, Freedom, will appear later this month and is already receiving rave reviews.

When Franzen received an honorary doctorate during Swarthmore's 2005 commencement, he recalled in his address his early work for the College's weekly student newspaper:

"When I came to Swarthmore in 1977, I thought I might want to be an investigative journalist. I volunteered for The Phoenix, and I got assigned to investigate why the College's housekeepers didn't belong to a union. To do the story, I had to interview the College's financial vice president, Ed Cratsley, but one of my defects as a journalist, it turned out, was that I was afraid to do interviews. ... Soon after this, I decided I should be a fiction writer. The great thing about fiction - I remember actually thinking this - was that you got to invent all the quotes."

Franzen also returned to campus in 2007 for the Theater Department's production of his translation of Spring Awakening, after which he led a discussion with students. Franzen, who graduated with high honors and a major in German, originally translated the play for the department nearly 25 years ago.