“What higher compliment can you get for your eyewear than to have someone grab it from your face?” asked the author and New Yorker contributor Jonathan Franzen last week in an NPR interview. The question was not academic for Franzen, whose designer frames were snatched off his face and held for $100,000 in ransom at the London launch of his new book Freedom.
The culprit, who was quickly apprehended by the police, turned out to be James Fletcher, a 27-year-old student studying computational aerospace design at Imperial College London. Fletcher had gatecrashed the party, and even after a few glasses of champagne, found it too dull to provide the illicit thrill he’d been hoping for.
Consequently, claiming to be with Channel 4 news, he blitzed the author, who badly needs his prescription glasses, and made his getaway, leaving an accomplice to deliver the hastily drafted ransom note.
The glasses, brown, heavy horned-rims from British designer Paul Smith, were returned to Franzen shortly and he took the whole debacle in stride. Meanwhile, Franzen’s co-worker at the New Yorker, Macy Halford, wrote on the magazine’s blog, “The glasses are nice, and once the world discovers the brand and style, I’m sure they’ll be flying off the shelves.”