Jonathan Franzen, the winner of the 2001 National Book Award, made a much-anticipated appearance at Berkeley Carroll last month to speak to seniors about how to write short stories and personal essays. Mr. Franzen, who appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as the “Great American Novelist”, came to us to speak about himself as writer, and how he got there. His novels include the internationally acclaimed The Corrections and Freedom, and Farther Away, a collection of personal essays. Senior Olivia Cucinotta gave a beautiful introduction, followed by the novelist himself. Mr. Franzen’s talk ranged from assuring us that his middle school years “sucked” to his deep love of birds and birding, and he even gave us advice on relationships: “Have them.”
Mr. Franzen talked about his early education, speaking to his high school experience: “I probably wouldn’t be a writer if I’d had a good time in junior high. So that was junior high. High school was better. And in that I think I differ. I think most writers also go on to have miserable high school experiences and I kind of keep it quiet when I’m around other writers. Actually, I kind of had fun.” Students seemed to connect with Mr. Franzen, who agreed to sign books for a few students that stayed behind after the talk to talk to him personally.