Monday, August 16, 2010
For the purposes of this post, if you'll permit me to back up a second, let's define the "hype machine" simply as the glut of articles, interviews and other press that make their way across our Starbucks tables and computer screens during the lead-up to a "publishing event." Sure, publishers drop millions on marketing for books they know will be hits, and novelists have publicists who carefully manage that writer's image in the media. Many times, though, the hype machine builds on itself naturally, as each new media outlet notices a trend that's drawing readers and wants to make sure they're not left out.
So now to the meat of this post: Unless you've been living in Dan Brown's basement, you're probably aware that Jonathan Franzen will publish his follow-up to 2001's The Correctionsin approximately 348 hours, 14 minutes, and 23 seconds. (That would be August 31st, for you non-mathletes.) The hype machine for Freedom has been churning along at near break-neck speed all summer. In fact, I can't ever remember the anticipation for a literary novel as intense as it is for this one.
The hype for Freedom peaked late last week when Time published its Aug. 23rd issue with Mr. Franzen eruditely and intellectually gazing off to the side of the cover. The headline: "Great American Novelist." It's the first time in 10 years a living American novelist has been on the cover. Stephen King was the last in 2000. (Unfortunately, you can only read part of the story online — another sure sign that Time feels like the story will grab readers and newsstand sales.) I thought it was a great article, especially the parts about Franzen's friendship with David Foster Wallace and how, with Freedom, Franzen's realized that story and characters matters most, and has laid off the literary tricks and fireworks.
Also, the NY Times' Michiko Kakutani big-worded her way through a really positive review that appeared yesterday — for a book that doesn't come out for two weeks! In fact, most reviews so far have been very positive — feeding the hype machine even more.
There are tons of other examples of the hype: a Huffington Post piece about why books still matter framed around Freedom; the fact that the film rights have already been sold. Franzen is everywhere. And, as usual, the hype machine is working. At the time of this writing, Freedom is #8 on Amazon's bestsellers list — a full two weeks before it's published.
Frankly, I can't get enough. It may diminish my enjoyment of the book (which is what people who hate the hype machine are known to claim, right?), but I love the fact that a literary novelist has so pervaded our consciousness. And so I continue to devour every clip I can find. Yes, normally I hate the hype machine — but this time, the end justifies the means.
So, what say you? Can you remember a non-Twilight, non-Harry Potter, non-Girl Who novel hyped as much as Freedom? What's your take on the hype machine? Cynic? Skeptic? Loathe it? Love it?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 12:07 PM