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Writers take Jonathan Franzen to task on Twitter following new interview

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Mary Altaffer/AP

In advance of his long-awaited novel Purity, author Jonathan Franzen is being criticized following an interview he gave with Weekend magazine in the United Kingdom.

As The Guardian reports, Franzen told Weekend that he and his partner Kathy considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan because of “a sense of alienation from the younger generation,” thinking the adoption would help him understand young people. Now, Franzen said, the idea was “insane” — his editor instead suggested he meet with a group of recent college grads.

But what people seem to be responding to the most are Franzen’s comments about, as The Guardian puts it, being “assigned the role of an anti-women villain by certain feminist critics.” Of shedding this role, Franzen said, “There is really nothing I can do except die – or, I suppose, retire and never write again.”

“I’m not a sexist,” Franzen said. “I am not somebody who goes around saying men are superior, or that male writers are superior. In fact, I really go out of my way to champion women’s work that I think is not getting enough attention. None of that is ever enough. Because a villain is needed. It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.”

On a feminist character in Purity who forces her husband to pee sitting down “to atone for his maleness,” Franzen tells The Guardian: “‘There’s a certain degree of glee in putting that stuff in the book, because I know that if you are hostile, you will find ammunition. I wrote this deliriously praising celebration of Edith Wharton. People managed to find a way to make it sound like I was hating on Edith Wharton. So why not just let it all rip and [say]: ‘Have fun with that, guys.’” Writer Anne Theriault had a few responses to this character:

Jennifer Weiner, who has battled with Franzen in the past over his dismissal of women’s commercial fiction, posted a series of tweets about the interview on Friday morning:

Even J.K. Rowling chimed in, responding to a year-old conversation about Franzen and Edward Albee:

Some, of course, think parts of this interview must be an elaborate prank:

Read some other responses below:

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