- Associated Press - Monday, December 6, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) - Oprah Winfrey and author Jonathan Franzen have put their rocky past behind them.

Franzen appeared on Monday’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” embracing his host after she chose his bestselling novel “Freedom” for her popular book club. Winfrey did not have Franzen on her show nine years ago, when his previous novel “The Corrections” was a book club selection, because he called some of her choices “schmaltzy.”

Winfrey said Monday she didn’t have Franzen on her show then because she didn’t want him to feel “uncomfortable.”

Franzen, 51, who is widely regarded as one of his generation’s leading fiction writers, was branded as a snob for the comment even though he apologized quickly and repeatedly.

“I spoke in very long sentences, and then little pieces of those sentences sounded bad, and your feelings were probably, understandably, hurt,” Franzen told Winfrey on Monday.

He also told her he considers himself a “Midwest egalitarian” and not a snob.

“My idea of the book I want to write, the book I want to read, is one that everybody can find a way to connect to,” Franzen said. “That’s really what I’ve devoted my whole career to.”

The pair discussed Franzen’s writing process, how he started writing “Freedom” and his visit with President Barack Obama.

“Bottomline is, I’m happy to have you,” Winfrey said.

“I’m happy to be here,” Franzen replied.

Winfrey said in September that she read “Freedom” after Franzen sent her a copy during the summer along with a note. She said she considered it a “tour de force” after the first chapter and called it a “masterpiece.” Released in late August, “Freedom” was virtually canonized by critics before publication and has topped best-seller lists. Franzen was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story, titled “Great American Novelist.”

Also Monday, Winfrey announced her 65th book club selection would be a combination of two Charles Dickens classics, “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Great Expectations.”

The two novels have been issued in a single bound Penguin paperback edition of about 800 pages with a list price of $20. The electronic version, also from Penguin, sells for $7.99.

Because the copyright has long expired on the 19th-century novels, they are available through a variety of publishers and retailers. “Great Expectations” can be downloaded for free on Amazon.com’s Kindle reader. “A Tale of Two Cities” costs 99 cents on Barnes & Noble’s e-book device, the Nook. The novels also can be downloaded for free through the new Google bookstore.

As of late Monday afternoon, readers apparently were seeking bargains. The Penguin paperback was just No. 380 on Amazon.com, a poor opening for a Winfrey pick, which usually jumps quickly to the top 10. “Great Expectations” was No. 10 on Amazon’s list of free downloads. On Barnes & Noble.com, the paperback was just 185.

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