Jonathan Franzen considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him 'figure out young people'

The novelist said the idea was quickly shut down by his editor, perhaps unsurprisingly

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The Independent Online

Best-selling American novelist Jonathan Franzen has said that he once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people better, but was convinced not to do it by his editor.

The bizarre claim came from Franzen during an interview with The Guardian, where he described wanting to do something about the discord he felt with younger people.

“One of the things that had put me in mind of adoption was a sense of alienation from the younger generation,” he says.

“They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry, and they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me.”

He had the idea while in his late forties, was in a good place in his career and relationship wise, but said his plan with partner Kathy lasted “maybe six weeks”.

Henry Finder, Franzen's editor at The New Yorker, suggested he could connect with younger people without becoming their legal guardian, so he decided to meet with a group of recent university graduates instead.

“It cured me of my anger at young people,” he said.

Franzen also discussed his rift with Oprah Winfrey in 2001, which saw the author get uninvited from the chat show host’s book club after he said she only championed “schmaltzy, one-dimensional” novels.

“From our very first conversation, it was clear we were not speaking the same language," he said. "I didn’t scream when she called me.”