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Jonathan Franzen tells NPR about his stolen glasses

October 5, 2010 |  4:23 pm

Franzen_la2010 Mercy, this has got to be the silliest book story in a long time. But our friends at NPR are covering it, and they are serious, smart people, so here goes: At a book party in London, somebody ran up and stole Jonathan Franzen's glasses.

This somehow became news.

Maybe it's because it is so silly. Maybe it's because the pilfering was followed by a fleeing -- the person who'd taken the glasses ran away and leapt a rather high fence. And I haven't even gotten to the ransom note!

Franzen explains the glasses-snatching to NPR: "Somebody shouted, 'Channel 4, Channel 4,' and grabbed the glasses from my face, and took off running, and I actually thought, because I was suddenly blind, I thought it was my editor, warning me that Channel 4, from the BBC, had arrived. So, I trotted after this person, and knew something was amiss only when I saw him leap a five-foot fence and disappear into the trees."

While the thief was hidden away, a ransom note was delivered by someone else to a colleague of Franzen's. The note read (someone other than Jonathan Franzen, who was glasses-less, read it) that the glasses would be returned for 100,000 -- oh, either pounds or dollars, depending on which account you read. Either way, 100,000 is a lot for a pair of glasses.

With concerns for the thief's safety -- some were worried that his escape might have led him into the nearby Serpentine lake -- police arrived, and a helicopter flew overhead. The perpetrator was caught.

Franzen is not pressing charges. "I've been laughing about the whole thing," he tells NPR, "and observing the anguish secondhand."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jonathan Franzen in September in Los Angeles, where wearing glasses is still safe. Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

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