Author Jonathan Franzen Wanted to Adopt Iraqi War Orphan to Understand Apathetic Young People


During a conversation with The Guardian this week, bestselling American novelist and New Yorker magazine author Jonathan Franzen admitted he once thought about adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people.

While a colleague eventually talked him out of the idea, Franzen, now 56, described a six-week period in his late 40s, where he was so upset by the apathy of young people, he felt he needed to find a way to connect with them.

The Freedom author now says the concept was “insane,” but said the idea he and his girlfriend Kathy would adopt was brought on by “a sense of alienation from the younger generation.”

“They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people,” he said. “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.”

New Yorker magazine editor Henry Finder instead suggested he meet with a group of recent college graduates, which Franzen said “cured me of my anger at young people.”

Franzen’s fifth novel, which is titled Purity, is set for publication next month.


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