Like many writers — or, rather, people who want to look like writers, or just look more intelligent in general — Jonathan Franzen wears glasses. They are black and fairly oval-shaped, with perked dimples on the top corners of the frames affixed with the usual silver droplet. He has minus eight vision so he wears them everywhere — that is, until they were snatched from his face at a party in London yesterday.
Franzen was already having a tough week. The edition of his new novel Freedom that was sent to British stores turned out to be an earlier draft full of rampant imperfection, and it took HarperCollins a week to replace them with the correct version. The uncorrected copies were pulped.
The glasses theft incident, however, contributed an odd coda to his drama-wracked British tour. The Bookseller said two party-crashers (they claimed to work for Puffin) stepped up to the celebrated American writer at the launch party held at Serpentine Gallery. Then, without hesitation, one of the two punks swiped the glasses from Franzen’s face while the other shoved a ransom note in his direction. “$100,000 — Your glasses are yours again!” the note read. The man left a hotmail adress on the note, so Franzen could email him when he decided to pay the $100,000 for his glasses. With that, the thieves fled into Kensington Gardens and Franzen, The Bookseller said, was “stunned.”
Naturally, the authorities dispatched a helicopter to find the escaped criminals and the Freedom writer’s stolen goods. “Apparently miscreants jumped into serpentine to escape,” tweeted Bookseller news editor Graeme Neill, who was referring to the Hyde Park lake. The Guardian cited a tweet by its own Merope Mills, who said the publishing flacks were being “embarrassingly self-flagellating. ‘Jonathan — we’re SO SO sorry.'”
The spectacles thief was, at last, apprehended in a bush, and the glasses were given back to Franzen. The Guardian said the writer will not press charges, and HarperCollins communications manager Susanna Frayn called the whole ordeal “a harmless prank.”
Whatever the impetus behind the bizarre heist — money, fame, some sort of neo-dadaist cred for embarrassing the literary establishment — it provided us with another Jonathan Franzen anecdote that’s emerged from across the pond this week. We expect that he’s probably ready to come home.