This week: a conversation with Jonathan Franzen about his novel Crossroads. Listen today at 2 pm, or anytime at our website.

“Jonathan Franzen” as a cultural phenomenon represents too many things to summarize, but they include: the volatile relationship between pop and literary culture in the US; the legacy of the nineteenth-century novel; the aftermath of postmodernism; the contested meaning of “great American novel”; and, somehow, “Jonathan”-ness itself.

But Franzen himself is not the cultural phenomenon. As you’ll hear on this week’s show, he’s a football fan; an appreciative skeptic of George Eliot; a Starbucks customer; an optimist about TV; and a writer who cares about the characters of his novels, perhaps especially those of his new novel, Crossroads.

Crossroads is the first volume in a planned trilogy, called The Key to All Mythologies in a playful allusion to Casaubon’s ridiculously ambitious project in Middlemarch. When asked on this week’s show about the George Eliot connection, Franzen says:

George Eliot.

Among other things, Franzen traces on our show the arc of his career from a socially conscious sort of writer to the kind more interested in demonic psychology:

When he describes central characters of Crossroads, it’s like hearing him talk about friends, or subjects of biographies he’s spent decades writing. Here’s Franzen on Russ and Marion, the married couple at the heart of the novel:

When you read Crossroads, you follow these characters into dark places, furious moods. This is Franzenian entertainment. He says:

Listen: The Mekons

Elsewhere, Franzen has already made a music recommendation: he likes The Mekons.

Read: Brontë

Franzen turns to Charlotte Brontë for demonic psychology; here’s a demonic passage from Brontë’s Villette:

Day-dreams are delusions of the demon.

This week’s ephemeral library

Josephine Halvorson and Georgia O’Keefe. The wild world of school board meetings. Who is the Bad Art Friend? Bill McKibben: Facebook is to Our Minds What Exxon is to Our Air (and Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse). Hanging Out With Joan Didion: What I learned About Writing From an American Master. The Road to Tyranny, A Graphic Narrative. Our Foreign Policy Elite Has Learned Nothing from Afghanistan.America Faces Supply Chain Disruption and Shortages. Here’s Why.

See you next week, folks. Til then!

OS at the Crossroads

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.