May 13, 2016

“What I’d most like to get out of this is not to have to live in shame,” or, Jonathan Franzen does Jeopardy


Power Player Jonathan Franzen via Wikipedia

Power Player Jonathan Franzen via Wikipedia

What is—Jeopardy Power Players? Ah, Gentle Reader—a good answer in the form of a question. We would also have accepted: What is Jonathan Franzen on prime time TV? As to how this new form of exposure may affect our beloved Franzen — we’ll know soon enough.

This past March it was announced that Jeopardy, the simultaneously very popular and seemingly totally anachronistic American television show, would take a breather from pitting man-brain against machine-brain in order to highlight celebrity-type peoples called “Power Players.” The episode series was described by Vulture as “kind of like Celebrity Jeopardy, except with questions that are more difficult than stupid easy.” It will feature as contestants Louis C.K., Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, Anderson Cooper, Al Franken, Melissa Harris-Perry, and a number of others—others like, for example, National Book Award-winning author Jonathan Franzen.


Each contestant will play for a charity of their choosing, with winners contributing a minimum of $50,000 and losing contestants earning $10,000. But Jonathan Franzen has other, arguably greater, ambitions—ambitions beyond donating his winnings to The American Bird Conservancy: “What I’d most like to get out of this is not to have to live in shame,” the author told Slate’s Katy Waldman at the episode’s taping—a very noble, if not unrealizable dream.

“This is a nightmare-come-true,” he added.

Jeopardy Power Players airs starting this Monday, May 16th, through Thursday, May 20th. Catch Jonathan Franzen competing against Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press and S.E. Cupp, a political commentator for CNN, NY Daily News, and Glamour, on Monday the 16th. Check your local listings for showtimes and stations.



Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.