I have enjoyed all of Jonathan Franzen’s books, in particular The Corrections, his novel about the complexities of family relationships, careers and, for one character, writing. The irony that 80,000 copies of his new book, Freedom will have to be recalled and/or pulped because someone used the wrong file can not be lost on him. Aside from Charlie Brooker’s amusing take on the sloppy way we all handle our digital filing, Stephanie Merritt’s piece highlights our fascination with imperfection:
It remains to be seen whether readers will want to exchange their “flawed” copies, though. As soon as Franzen spoke about the error at a public reading, there was a run on the venue’s bookshop with people desperate to get their hands on what might become a collectors’ item. People love the idea of imperfection and, for many readers, there’s a curious pleasure in the thought of seeing behind the scenes. A glimpse of the work in progress can give a sense of the writer’s process that might be almost more interesting to a fan than the final draft, especially if you’re obsessive enough to compare and contrast.
We love blooper reels because they show those people as human (and are funny) and behind the scenes looks on our DVDs. Despite the enormous amounts of money spent on creating these highly polished entertainment forms, we still want to see the man behind the curtain. We’re more fascinated by how things are made than the things themselves. In the end, we’re curious creatures and a good dose of randomness in an interactive work, like Brendan Dawes’s excellent Accidental News Explorer sets the field for serendipity that, as Liz Danzico argues, is often takes effort to design. Writing is such a private act, it’s rare to see behind the scenes – perhaps more writers should make use of a blooper appendix.