Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Oh, Jonathan Franzen.

No contemporary author seems to get under the universe's skin as much as the writer behind such doorstoppers as "Freedom" and the just-released "Purity." This is mostly due to Franzen's penchant for making clangingly tone-deaf remarks. Remember when he mused aloud about wanting to adopt an Iraqi orphan so that he could see how young people function? Or turned his nose up at Oprah? Or made an enemy of the Audobon Society, literally the last organization you might have thought it was possible to enter into a blood feud with?

Well, now Franzen has done it again. In an interview with the Financial Times, he made some ill-advised comments about his relationship to poverty. We'll let Jonathan take it from here:

“I am literally, in terms of my income, a 1 per center, yes,” he says, his eyes not on me but on the empty table next to us. “I spend my time connected to the poverty that’s fundamental to mankind, because I’m a fiction writer.”

He doesn’t write about poverty, I protest. He writes about the angst of people like him and the people he knows. Franzen gives the neighbouring table top a weary look. “That’s a quotation from Flannery O’Connor, by the way.”

While I smart, he goes on: “I’m a poor person who has money.”

Uh, ok then? Franzen also admitted that he has a cleaning lady, though he stressed that because he paid her good money and she was Filipina, there was nothing wrong with that.


You can read the entire chit-chat here.