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Saturday, 2 October 2010

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.
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