The game show "Jeopardy" has announced the line-up of contestants for this year’s “Power Players Week” and there are some big names – comedian Louis C.K., U.S. Senator Al Franken, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. But literary wags are salivating, in particular, at one name on the list: novelist Jonathan Franzen. Slate captured the spirit with the headline it placed over the news: "Pass the Popcorn! Jonathan Franzen is Coming to Jeopardy!"
Franzen is, of course, a wildly popular novelist, esteemed by readers and critics alike, but he has also been dogged by more than his share of critics – whether for alleged sexism, or for such misdeeds as disparaging Oprah’s Book Club after it selected his novel The Corrections, and suggesting that appearing on the show might be inconsistent with his place in “the high-art literary tradition.”
It has been established in past years that very smart people sometimes do not do well on "Jeopardy." Wolf Blitzer’s appearance a couple of years ago achieved a certain cult-like status. The authoritative-voiced CNN anchor gave wrong answers for the town King David and Jesus came from (he guessed “Jerusalem,” instead of “Bethlehem”) erroneously called Julia Child “Julia Childs,” and made other blunders on the way to losing to late night TV sidekick Andy Richter and Desperate Housewives actress Dana Delany.
Of course, Franzen may well surprise the critics – he is, after all, not only one of America’s leading literary writers but a onetime Fulbright Scholar. And since the money he wins will go to his chosen charity, the American Bird Conservancy – which declares itself to be “a fearless bird conservation group — one that” isn’t “afraid to take on difficult issues like free-roaming cats" and pesticides – we can't help rooting for him to win big.