A Tipsy Jonathan Franzen Knows Better Than to Comment on the End of Oprah

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Franzen.Photo: Patrick McMullan

Last night, New York's moneymen (and mayor!) mingled with the city's literary stars at a candlelit 100th birthday party for the New York Public Library. Whole flowering trunks of flower blossoms decorated long tables set up in the hallways, and Stephen Schwarzman, whose 100-million-dollar donation earned him the right to plaster his name on the entire building, greeted guests like Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Walters. When we asked Jonathan Franzen to give us his thoughts on the event, he started out earnestly enough, saying, "You know, there used to be a reservoir built on this spot, provided water for all of Manhattan ... " — but ultimately trailed off into a confession: "Oh, I am so drunk." Really? we wondered. On Chardonnay? "It's not wine," he told us. "Diluted Dewar's." In that case: What do you think of Oprah going off the air this week?

"You are not going to get me out on Oprah in this condition, sorry," he said. "I know better about that at this point. I didn't a couple years ago." He was referring, of course, to that time he expressed concern about Oprah putting his book, The Corrections, on her book-club list. The two have since made amends, but who could forget the controversy? Not Darryl Pinckney, we learned. When we asked the High Cotton author if he'll miss Oprah and her book club, he said, "I am not one of these people who believes the New York Times is the best judge of these things. Why shouldn't Oprah Winfrey sell books? The choices were interesting, even if they were all in a certain genre. She got people to read. I like Jonathan Franzen a lot, but I think he made a mistake. He was a younger man then. And I think that kind of highbrow, middlebrow, lowbrow thing — people should be careful about that."