Franzen Would be Pleased By City's Efforts to Save Birds

As Sam Anderson recently noted in his review of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, “Franzen still appears, every once in a while, in the guise of a public crank, fulminating about cell phones and SUVs and (most recently) the slaughter of migratory birds.”

That crank is Walter Berglund, the nature-loving main character whose rage against people who mindlessly procreate, watch television, guzzle resources, and build housing developments at the expense of bird populations brings him, in a particularly shameful moment, to capture a neighbor’s bird-murdering cat. Among his many rants is the issue of wild bird populations dwindling as the migratory creatures crash into man-made structures.

And so the announcement that New York City’s brightest buildings would dim their lights this fall to save the millions of migrating birds who pass through town, must be a joyous piece of news (and welcome PR for the novel) for Mr. Franzen.

According to the New York Daily News, 90,000 birds are killed each year by crashing into buildings as a result of being disoriented by this city’s bright lights. Among the participating buildings that will dim their lights from midnight to dawn between September and November are the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, Time Warner Center, and former Citigroup Center.

Glen Philips, the director of New York City Audubon, who sounds like the real-life Walter Berglund, told the Daily News, “Millions of birds pass through New York City on their way to their wintering grounds. They fly primarily at night over the city, and they get confused by the lights.”

Franzen Would be Pleased By City's Efforts to Save Birds