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Franzen Recalled

Cars and books get recalled for different reasons.  But the brakes should have been put on this recent publication in the UK of Freedom, which careened foolishly, skidding on typos.  Franzen has insisted his fans be allowed to exchange their compromised copies for the real thing, the final draft, though 80,000 copies in hardback remain in Britain, tantalisingly full of subtle characterisation alternatives, and spelling differences.  Does such a multiplication of authorial intent wonderfully express the liberating nature of published text, which surely must resist the author's will, or is it merely slipshod and annoying?

No writer wants typos; each gets them in their turn.  Like other physical deformities (one leg shorter, a pimple, a tic), each carries them as best they can - all books are marred by them, as all bodies have their imperfections.  Typos can lead to value - collectors often like such flawed variants, but in this case the market is flooded with duds.  But, apparently, the flaws are invisible to the naked eye of the average reader.  Even Blake Morrison has confessed to not noticing them (though he was reading to review, not to correct proofs).  Was it precious of Franzen to react so promptly?  Eyewear has yet to read the masterpiece, in either its pristine or marred versions.  It would be good to hear from buyers of the rubbished edition.


Andrew McMillan said…
Just finished the original copy of the book. Can't say I noticed any typos but perhaps that is testament to ones immersion with the narrative. It is a highly accomplished book but I'm not sure if it's a masterpiece. What it says it says beautifully but quite whether it says something Delillo and others like him, and earlier the likes of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller haven't already said I'm not sure.

Certainly a must-read and one of the best novels I've read for a long time. But, for me it didn't change the game, just narrated quite perfectly on the one already being played

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summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.