As American writer and bird lover Jonathan Franzen was dismayed to learn, Wesleyan’s Camp Cardinal is in fact a daycare for the children of alumni, not a forum for enthusiasts of birdwatching and other amateurs of avian activity.
Franzen, who often publicly expresses his affinity for cardinals and
their ilk, traveled all the
way from his bodega in
Boulder Creek, California
to attend Camp Cardinal.
He arrived on campus in
high spirits, binoculars at
the ready, but he was soon
“I came here to watch
some birds,” said Fran-
zen, visibly shaken. “But this is
just a bunch of children. Why
would I look at these illiteate ur-
chins when I could look at dope-
To the Camp Counselors’ dismay, Franzen refused to
leave the premises, hanging about
in a foul humor and ruining the oc-
casion for everyone.
“Can children poop and fly at
the same time?” Franzen asked one
counselor rhetorically. “Not any
that I’ve seen.”
Sorely disappointed, Franzen
tried to cheer himself up by organizing a writing workshop for Camp
Cardinal’s juvenile attendants. True
to his curmudgeonly and sour public persona, Franzen was harshly
critical of his peers’ work.
Franzen described the poetry
of one Charles Hildenburss, age
seven, as akin to “a dyslexic Billy
“Come on, impress me!” the
contemporary American novelist and essayist was heard yelling.
“You call this literature? This makes
me want to vomit. This makes me
want to go read Stephen King in
Rosie O’Donnell’s hot tub.”
Though this criticism was cer-
tainly harsh, many of the attendees of the Camp Cardinal writing
workshop appreciated Franzen’s
“It’s so difficult to get honest
feedback at most workshops,” said
Darla Harrington, age six. “A lot of
the time people show up without
having even reading your
work; they just want something to put on their CV so
they can get into some shitty
MFA program. That doesn’t
happen at Camp Cardinal.”
Franzen spent the rest
of the weekend wandering
alumni brunches and lunches with a petition demanding that he replace Michael Bennet
‘87 as commencement speaker.
“I have a lot more to say about
birdwatching,” Franzen explained.
Franzen was last spotted talking
to the Wesleyan cardinal, which is a
human being dressed as a highly an-
thropomorphized cardinal. According to witnesses, he was quizzing it
on its nesting habits, plumage, and
whether or not it had a boyfriend.