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London Police Catch Prankster Who Stole Writer Jonathan Franzen's Eyeglasses

As we reported earlier, last night, the American writer Jonathan Franzen was in London, to kick off of the European leg of the book tour for his newest novel, Freedom, and during a party at the Serpentine Club, a man snatched his glasses off his face, left a ransom note -- demanding $100,000, and fled the scene.

In an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Franzen explained what happened:

Somebody shouted, "Channel 4, Channel 4," and grabbed the glasses from my face, and took off running, and I actually thought, because I was suddenly blind, I thought it was my editor, warning me that Channel 4, from the BBC, had arrived. So, I trotted after this person, and knew something was amiss only when i saw him leap a five-foot fence and disappear into the trees.

Immediately, several partygoers chased after the thief, who jumped into the Serpentine, a small lake that divides Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Before long, the police were involved. They called in a helicopter, concerned the culprit could drown.

According to Franzen, the prankster was "eventually coaxed out of some bushes," and some 30 minutes later, "a very nice police officer" returned the glasses, which the author describes as "heavy, brown, horn-rimmish sort of things."

Franzen said the whole ordeal paled in comparison to another incident that marred his book tour -- when his publisher discovered an egregious typesetting error in the European edition of Freedom. Thousands of copies had to be pulped.

Franzen told Kelly he doesn't plan to press charges.

"I've been laughing about the whole thing and observing the anguish secondhand," he said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.
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