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Franzen's Glasses Stolen. $100,000 Ransom Demanded.

The 2009 New Yorker Festival: Fiction Night

hide captionJonathan Franzen. Complete with glasses.

Joe Kohen/Getty Images North America

Jonathan Franzen is not having a good week in Europe.

First, British publishers, somehow, published the wrong version of the manuscript for his new novel Freedom. When you work for ten years on a book, you might just care a little that the version you want is the one published. Thousands of copies will be pulped. And the enjoyable finger pointing about whose fault it is has just begun.

But, you have to figure, Franzen's getting over it. He's cool. He's at a party for the new book, you're having a glass of wine, you're at a fancy gallery, things are good, right? Not so fast.

Around 8pm, two men, claiming to work for Puffin, gatecrashed the party at the Serpentine Gallery and approached Franzen. One snatched his glasses and escaped, before the other handed the stunned author a ransom note and also fled into Kensington Gardens.

The note read: "$100,000 - Your glasses are yours again!" and left a Hotmail address.

As news spread around an incredulous party, a police helicopter was tasked to search for the thieves, who had fled across the Serpentine. One of them was apprehended hiding in the bushes and Franzen's glasses were returned to the author unharmed.

I'm pretty sure as an author, you don't really want this kind of tweet from your reading:

Astonished partygoers recorded yesterday's episode on Twitter under the hashtag #franzen, which rapidly evolved into #glassesgate. "Helicopter above Kensington Gardens, trying to find #Franzen glasses. Apparently miscreants jumped into Serpentine to escape," tweeted the Bookseller's news editor Graeme Neill, adding later, "I can't think of anything over the past few years that was such a mix of shock, disbelief and hilarity." The Guardian's Merope Mills, who was at the event, tweeted that the publisher's speeches were "embarrassingly self-flagellating. 'Jonathan - we're SO SO sorry'." A (fictional) photograph of the missing glasses swiftly appeared for auction on eBay, but was later taken down.

Franzen's people say he won't press charges for the "harmless prank."

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