Lit Seen: Jonathan Franzen Charts the Decline and Fall of New York

A monthly literary column

I ask Weiland if—beyond the necessity of keeping America's writers drunk—he took the Depression analogy to heart at all. "The original WPA Guides were produced in the very depths of the Depression," he says. "And in one way, they looked back to a smaller, more traditional America. But at the same time, they very much looked forward to an America that was vibrant and vital and dynamic and active once again." Weiland had similar ambitions for State by State: The WPA Guides affirmed America's basic "charms and pleasures, and I hope that's the same thing we've done, on a smaller level."

As for tonight at the New School, we'll take what charms and pleasures we can get. "Thank you all for coming out. . . .We priced the evening back when John McCain was declaring the fundamentals of our economy sound," announces Franzen, kicking off the night downstairs. "If we had to do it again tonight, we'd probably ask $6.50 at the door."

zbaron@villagevoice.com

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