Author Jonathan Franzen speaks on stage during Opening Day Spotlight: In Conversation with Jonathan Franzen during BookExpo America held at the Javits Center on May 27, 2015 in New York City.
Brent N. Clarke—FilmMagic/Getty Images
August 21, 2015 9:56 AM EDT

The greatest writers must have deep insight into their contemporary societies, a fact novelist Jonathan Franzen knows well. So when he found himself confused by the younger generation, he thought perhaps adopting an Iraqi war orphan might help him understand.

Franzen, whose latest novel Purity debuts Sept. 1, told the Guardian that he and his partner, Kathryn Chetkovich, had considered the adoption when he was in his late forties (he’s now 56).

“One of the things that had put me in mind of adoption,” he said, “was a sense of alienation from the younger generation. They seemed politically not the way they should be as young people. I thought people were supposed to be idealistic and angry. And they seemed kind of cynical and not very angry. At least not in any way that was accessible to me.”

Franzen now describes the idea as “insane,” and says his editor at the New Yorker talked him out of it, arranging for him to meet with a group of recent college graduates instead. “It cured me of my anger at young people,” he said. The novelist remains childless.

[The Guardian]

Read next: Review: Jonathan Franzen’s Purity Examines Wealth and Identity

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