Passionate, independent-minded nonfiction from the international bestselling author of 'The Corrections'. Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' was the literary sensation of 2010, whilst 'The Corrections' was the best-loved and most written-about novel the previous decade. 'How to be Alone', is a collection of the personal essays and painstaking, often ...
Passionate, independent-minded nonfiction from the international bestselling author of 'The Corrections'. Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' was the literary sensation of 2010, whilst 'The Corrections' was the best-loved and most written-about novel the previous decade. 'How to be Alone', is a collection of the personal essays and painstaking, often humorous reportage that have earned Franzen a wide and loyal readership, including what has come to be known as 'The Harper's Essay', Franzen's controversial 1996 look at the fate of the novel. From the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, from his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease to a rueful account of Franzen's brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author, each piece wrestles with Franzen's familiar themes: the erosion of civic life and private dignity, and the hidden persistence of loneliness, in postmodern imperial America. These collected essays record what Franzen calls 'a movement away from an angry and frightened isolation toward an acceptance - even a celebration - of being a reader and a writer.' They voice a wry distrust of the claims of technology and psychology, the love-hate relationship with consumerism, and the subversive belief in the tragic shape of the individual life that help make Franzen one of the sharpest, toughest-minded, and most entertaining social critics at work today.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-12-02 "In publishing circles, confessions of self doubt are widely referred to as `whining'-the idea being that cultural complaint is pathetic and self-serving in writers who don't sell, ungracious in writers who do." This quote, taken from his Harper's essay "Perchance to Dream," and later reworked for this collection as "Why Bother," was written before Franzen tasted huge success with his bestselling novel The Corrections. Fans of that work will be intrigued by the elements from Franzen's personal life that run parallel to those of the characters in The Corrections. However, Franzen's adroit cultural criticism, albeit a personal one, is the root of this collection of essays. Hearing such subjective work read by the author himself adds an air of authenticity. It also satisfies a curiosity as to what that voice actually sounds like. This audiobook's editors satisfy that curiosity, but also make the wise choice of not letting Franzen read the entire collection. While his reading is sincere, his delivery, unlike his text, is passionless and dry. Fortunately, the lion's share of the essays is read with much more moxie by James. He gives these intelligent, thoughtful and provocative pieces more dramatic punch than Franzen can. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 2). (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-09-03 Bestselling and National Book Award- winning novelist Franzen (The Corrections) urges readers to say no to drugs, but not the pharmaceutical kind; his opiates are those "technology offers in the form of TV, pop culture, and endless gadgetry," soporifics that "are addictive and in the long run only make society's problems worse." Franzen's just as hard on intellectual conformity-on academe's canonization of third-rate but politically correct novels, for example. As a serious artist, he knows that the deck is stacked against him; after all, a great novel is a kind of antiproduct, one that is "inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable." The problem, he says, is that instead of being allowed to enjoy our solitary uniqueness we are all being turned into one gigantic corporate-created entity, a point Franzen makes tellingly when he says that while a black lesbian New Yorker and a Southern Baptist Georgian might appear totally different, the truth is that both "watch Letterman every night, both are struggling to find health insurance... both play Lotto, both dream of fifteen minutes of fame, both are taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and both have a guilty crush on Uma Thurman." These canny, well-researched essays (which have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's and elsewhere) range over a variety of subjects, from the antiquated and bizarrely inefficient Chicago postal system to the bizarrely efficient new privatized federal prisons, but they are united by a single passionate insistence that, in a cookie-cutter world, people who want simply to be themselves should have the right to do so. (Oct.) Forecast: This cultural critique is unlikely to sell like The Corrections, but anyone who missed the controversial 1996 "Harper's essay" can catch it here in slightly revised form, and Franzen's many admirers will buy it. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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