Grace Hwang Lynch

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Grace Hwang Lynch

Grace Hwang Lynch
Silicon Valley, California,
December 31
I'm a former television news reporter. Currently a communications consultant, freelance writer, and mother of two. I write about raising a multicultural family at HapaMama, and I'm also the News & Politics Editor at BlogHer. My work has been published in several magazines and newspapers, as well as in the anthologies "Lavaderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word" and "Mamas and Papas:On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting" by City Works Press. Follow me on Twitter: @HapaMamaGrace


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 1:56AM

A Night With Jonathan Franzen in Santa Cruz

Rate: 23 Flag


book cafe line

The line to get into the book store, two hours early

The Great American Novelist kicked off his speaking tour for his newly released novel Freedom at an unlikely location: a strip mall in Santa Cruz, California. Actually, not even Santa Cruz proper — but the outlying surfer town of Capitola.

GS Book Cafe 

 Me with my friend Susannah, Franzen fan-girls

As I write this, I am kicking myself for actually following the book store lady's request that we not take photos of Jonathan Franzen, although I did see a few flashes pop as literature's answer to Hugh Grant stepped up to the podium in the packed Capitola Book Cafe.

Dressed in a rumpled white shirt and black jeans, Franzen raked his fingers through his famously tousled hair, which is now more gray than not.

"I have not hitherto been nervous about a bookstore reading," he stammered, calling Tuesday night's appearance a pre-season game. "Hometown crowds are always the hardest," he added.

Perhaps the sporting analogies were an introduction to the passage he was about to read from Freedom,  introducing us to high school basketball star Patty Berglund. Perhaps the awkwardness is part of Franzen's authorial persona, more comfortable in front a computer (with the Internet ports disabled) than in front of a overheated room full of fans.

I had arrived early enough to score a good seat, not directly in front (those were reserved for the book store's club members), but to his left, where he turned often to address the standing room only crowd. And I like to think — me.

Lit Boy did not disappoint, with a surprisingly emotive reading of the dialogue-heavy backstory of Patty, her bleeding-heart politician mother, and attorney father. He charmed the crowd by attempting to evade the Q&A session, "No questions? Alright! Let's sign books!" then graciously introducing his girlfriend, Kathryn, and several friends from New York.

In response to one question, Franzen even offered advice for struggling young writers:

  • Be prepared for the struggle.
  • Read lots and lots of books (he recommends early 20th century Russians) — good writing becomes internalized.
  • Find somebody who will be really, really hard on your prose.

I raised my hand, but didn't get picked. But as I made my way to the podium to get my book signed, Jonathan looked at me. In the eye. Here was my chance to pop my question.

"What do you think about Freedom being picked for the Salon book club?"

He batted his Bambi lashes in that flustered way of his, "I wasn't aware that it was picked. I mainly read the New York Times. But Salon does fine work. I think it's a good thing."

Text and images © 2010 Grace Hwang Lynch 




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Grace, I was freaked when I saw the sabotaged Dell on the bare desk in the bare room in the Times story! Struggle, indeed.
You bet, Canuck!

Fetlock- I saw that. Maybe I'm not that dedicated, I couldn't desecrate a laptop like that.
Hey, you are on to my secret location: Santa Cruz Bookshop!
Love that place! I've seen Isabelle Allende, Jane Smiley and Timothy Ferris.
Best Wishes,
You represented for us that's so cool.
Oh, I'm sorry...Oops, I misread. I'll check out Capitola. : )
Best Wishes,
Russian literature? Blatantly cryptic. Go figure.
Nice post Grace. I was at the Capitola Book Cafe in July when I took my daugters for a trip along the coast. Great place to eat and read.

Thanks for sharing this with us.
I am looking forward to reading Freedom. Thanks for amping up the anticipation!
How exciting! I am not familiar with this author but will be sure to heck him out!
That was a cool article. Love book signings, personally. Thanks for sharing. And yes, I'm looking forward to reading his book, too.
No surprise that Franzen sent Obama a copy of "Freedom" They're both phony to the core.
If you can take Franzen seriously after reading this --

then there's no hope for you.

First he rips Gaiis off, then he returns to the scene of the crime and trashes the corpse.

Gaddis is the novelist that Franzen will never be because he has no respect for seriousness or intelligence.

Reading Gaddis' "The Recognitions" is a privilege, not a chore. Likewise "J.R." But you're never going to know that if you follow the advice of a shallow literary poseur like Franzen.
Grace, you look so excited... you groupie!
Looks like a great time. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy.
Love your boldness, and love Franzen's spot on advice to young writers. Thanks for sharing this.
I've never been to a book signing, though I'm an avid reader and love books. I guess authors just don't rise to the level of pop stars for me, not sure why that is.

I like his advice about reading alot. I've always had the sense that you have to read to write well. Also, I have that person who is always VERY hard on my writing--my husband. I complain about his harsh critiques, but I also know I am lucky to have them.

I don't celebrity crush very often, but Franzen would fit in that category for me.

Have you read the book yet? I'm a part of the book club this time, too. I'm just over 100 pages in and can't wait to read more. I love that he read that excerpt - I relate to the mindset of how her mother behaves so much. I grew up around women like that.

Look forward to reading more together!
Sparking, were you there, too? He really deadpanned the mother's voice in her snippy dialogue, and has a great timing and rapport with the audience. Maybe I'm lumping all northern Midwesterners together, but I detected a little Garrison Keillor in his delivery.

Franzen did list off a litany of Russian authors, such as Dostoevsky, but it was well past midnight when I wrote this.
Thanks for standing in line for us and reporting back! I'm on the library waiting list for the book. (Cuuuutttee picture of you too!)
Ah, Franzen....The book is great. And, ironically, a few months ago I downloaded this really cool software that irreversibly disables all my social networking and internet connections for whatever blocks of time I want it to. It's called "Freedom."
Thanks for relaying his advice to writers! rated.
You're such a groupie (just kidding). Glad you got to meet someone you obviously admire (and dare I say crush on). Rated
Oh, I am a groupie! Better to be upfront and have fun with it than pretend to be impartial (reminds me of my college alt-journalism course). Now, if only they sold black concert t-shirts...
Wow! What a cool experience! Thanks for sharing it.
Grace, you are adorable and you make an excellent reporter. 20th century Russian writers? Oh my. ~r
It's interesting to note the similarities between what you noticed in Santa Cruz and what I saw in Kansas City. His readings are great.