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Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen remains unfazed by his status as a digital-age punching bag

Less than two years passed between Jonathan Franzen writing a proposal for the 500-plus-page "Purity," and delivering it to his publisher. For a guy who took several years to heave forth each of his two previous acclaimed novels, that's practically the speed of sound.

The struggles he's had in the past that slowed progress weren't as prevalent this time around, he said. But mortality might also have something to do with it.

"It is unprecedented," said Franzen. "It may be because I'm not young anymore. Not that I'm better at writing fiction, but there's less doubt about what I should be doing. When you're 45 and take 10 or 15 years to write...