Lessons from Irving and Franzen

A number of interesting thoughts from John Irving and Jonathan Franzen from their appearance at The Connecticut Forum. John Irving’s favorite word is penis, and he claims it to be a very useful word when needing to cut through the chatter of an airport terminal in order to locate your lost child.

Jonathan Franzen credits Harriet the Spy as his first formative novel. This was unexpected.


John Irving believes that all novelists should write about what they fear the most.

In terms of my position on these matters:

I have no favorite word but now feel foolish for not having one. I shall begin searching immediately.

My first formative novel was A Wrinkle in Time.


In terms of writing what I fear most, my books would probably fall into these categories:

Something Missing: Fear of never being noticed

Unexpectedly, Milo: Fear of never being accepted

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend: Fear of not existing

Damn. That was much easier than I had hoped.