October 1, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: J-Franz embroiled in another mess based on his comments

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Him with his foot in his mouth?

Yet another scandal based on odd comments by Jonathan Franzen seems to be unfolding. That is, he continues to be the only on-the-record source saying the UK version of his controversial novel Freedom is going to be pulped. And that story continues to get fishier and fishier ….

As per MobyLives’ earlier report, Franzen told a crowd at a reading in London last night that “the British printers had mistakenly published an old draft of his text, and he urged fans not to read the novel until the correct version is released on Monday.”

It sounded like a highly unlikely happening to this publisher, especially on such a high-profile book. The printers would certainly have shown a final proof of the book to the publisher to avoid exactly this sort of thing (at Melville House we also show these “final proofs” to the author, and I would be certain that a high-profile author like Franzen would be shown proofs as well, as a contractual obligation). Still, there was no word from Franzen’s UK publisher — HarperCollins — nor his US publisher — FSG — as to whether this was true, and whether it applied to the US version as well.

Meanwhile, the printer was left hanging to dry by Franzen’s comments.

But sure enough, now the Guardian‘s Rowenna Davis has updated the story to report that “the printing company contacted the Guardian to say that while there had been an error in the book, it did not originate with them.”

Meanwhile, there’s the fact that “Franzen told the audience that all copies would be exchanged or refunded, including postage and packaging.”

Given that, as Shelf Awareness observes in its report, we may be talking about as much as a whopping 200,000 copies of the book, it’s hard not to imagine several publishers on two sides of the Atlantic verging on coronaries.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.

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