It should have been annoying I suppose. You order a book, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, the latest candidate, or so everyone tells you, for the title Next Great American Novel, it arrives with Amazon’s usual efficiency, almost before you click the confirm button on their website, and then it sits all new and exciting on your desk for a couple of weeks whilst you get round to reading it. Then this happens.
It is the wrong version. Something entirely new in my experience, the British publishers, HarperCollins, have printed a version of the text that the author, the widely celebrated Jonathan Franzen, says is an earlier draft filled with errors so HarperCollins, at enormous expense, something in the region of £70,000, have recalled all the editions sold in Britain so far.
I rang them this morning and was told they are putting the new book in the post to me today complete with a prepaid envelope for the return of the “faulty” one.
Now if this had been a washing machine, a Toyota car or a contraceptive device, I guess we should all be angry about the error and relieved to get the replacement but my first reaction was, dammit, I ought to read the faulty version before sending it back to see what was wrong with it.
It is much too long to read twice though so I shall be dutiful and return this copy as soon as the new one arrives.
Will it be a collector’s item I wonder and should I keep it anyway?
Will it actually be better than Mr Franzen’s authorised version?
This error has quite exited me for a number of reasons but, most of all, it has shown me, a struggling, insecure writer who is never satisfied with what he has written, that even the big guns get it wrong. Not just a bit wrong but wrong with hundreds of errors, rethinks and inaccuracies.
Even if I hate your book Jonathan Franzen, I will love you for giving me the confidence to stumble onwards – that, is a kind of freedom too.