Meeting the Guardian’s monthly book club at Kings Place in London, the author tells Professor John Mullan why his novels deliver such traditional pleasures to readers. Partly, he explains, this is because he “wanted you to enjoy yourself – that’s the whole point of the novel”.

The more conventional aspects of The Corrections also arise, he says, because of his own inability to master the solipsistic manner that has served earlier American novelists like Roth and Updike so well. For him, he says, the third person is “a wonderful thing … a clean breaking and entering” into other people’s heads.

Franzen also talks about how self-deception is at the heart of The Corrections, and how his characters are often in flight from a reality that pursues them “like a velociraptor”.

He also reveals how the real characters of his parents shaped the fictional Enid and Alfred Lambert, and how a “tour-de-force impulse” turned five short novels into a single novel.