In her review of Cynthia Ozick’s new essay collection, Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays, Zoe Heller quotes Ozick quoting Lionel Trilling in reference to Jonathan Franzen’s commercial-literary ambition: “a writer must ‘direct his words to his spiritual ancestors, or to posterity, or even, if need be, to a coterie.’” Heller is interested in Ozick’s endurance, and her persistent delineation of fame and recognition....more
Posts Tagged: jonathan franzen
…like Franzen’s novels, the Berenstain Bear books might meander, reveling in details alternately informative and irrelevant, but ultimately they’re straightforward tales about family. (Also, as a friend pointed out to me recently, JFran sort of looks like a Berenstain Bear. This can’t be coincidental.)
Electric Literature has the scoop on the list of books President Obama and his family bought during their recent excursion on Small Business Saturday. Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Franzen made their way onto the President’s reading list....more
If “show, don’t tell” were really that great advice, why bother writing anything at all? Slate’s Forrest Wickman makes the case for saying what you mean:
Twenty-first-century tastemakers like to think of themselves as beyond highbrow vs. lowbrow—that monocle popped long ago—but our eye for subtlety persists.
Too many stories about mopey suburbanites. Too many well-off white people. A surfeit of descriptions, a paucity of action. Too much privileging of prose for the sake of prose, too little openness to rougher energies. And those endings?
At the New Yorker, Jonathan Franzen writes about “the New Yorker story” as a genre that emerged in the fifties from the inkwells of Cheever et al., with all its well-educated white male melancholy, and the regional variations from the likes of Welty and Nabokov, all beaming with affluent brilliance....more
The Guardian reports that Neil Gaiman has added his name to a letter urging China’s president Xi Jinping to release dissident writers “languishing in jail for the crime of expressing their opinions.” In addition to Gaiman, several other famed authors, including Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Eagan, have contributed to the effort, calling for “immediate steps to defend and protect the rights of all Chinese citizens to communicate and access information freely.”...more
Saturday 9/19: Jami Attenberg, Lauren Groff, Alice Sola Kim, Sara Novic, Chinelo Okparanta, and Julia Pierpont join Mellow Pages Library Summer Vacation for a blowout bookend event. Silent Barn, 2 p.m., Free.
Marie Buck, Laura Elrick, Luke McMullan, and Rachel Warriner are hosted by Sophie Seita for reading of assorted poetry....more
From Freedom to Purity, there’s no denying the man likes his themes. Over at Flavorwire, Jonathon Sturgeon reviews Jonathan Franzen’s forthcoming novel:
Does Franzen truly believe his readers need to hear that the world is impure?
For another take on Purity, check out Alden Jones’s Rumpus review of the novel here....more
The church on Siegfeldstrasse was open to anyone who embarrassed the Republic, and Andreas Wolf was so much of an embarrassment that he actually resided there, in the basement of the rectory, but unlike the others—the true Christian believers, the friends of the Earth, the misfits who defended human rights or didn’t want to fight in World War III—he was no less an embarrassment to himself.
If Franzen is our genius realist, and DFW our genius postmodernist — how might they meld irony and sincerity?
In an excerpt over at Salon from his new book, Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life, Eric G. Wilson talks irony, realism, postmodernism, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Franzen....more
Wait, he’s not done yet. Franzen talks birds, climate change, and religion with Salon:
I think more broadly, there has been a general trend in the environmental movement over the last couple of decades to try to learn to speak the language of economics and capitalism and human values, things like ecosystem services.
Two weeks ago, Franzen wrote a piece for the New Yorker that, among other things, condemned the Audubon Society for focusing too much on climate change and not enough on conservation, the society’s original mission....more
“Tax law is like the world’s biggest game of chess with all sorts of weird conundrums about ethics and civics and the consent of the governed built in,” Wallace wrote in an email to his friend, the novelist Jonathan Franzen, in 2007.
At Booth, Susan Lerner interviews Jonathan Franzen about a range of subjects including the influence of the YA novel, social media, and the different “forms of exploration” associated with essays and fiction. On the latter subject Franzen says:
I think fiction is the genre better suited to exploration.
…our Franzen problems, these days, are pretty minor. We don’t have to worry that Chip Lambert’s hand-wringing is going to reinforce the old, realist modes of romantic reaction. But we do have to worry about what happens to attempts to resist those modes.
My aspiration to spend time at sea as requisite literary training died long ago, as a teenager, on a white-knuckled ferry ride to Elba during a torrential rainstorm. Not only was I seasick, I saw the population on board as hostile competitors to salvation.
Jonathan Franzen will release another sweeping narrative titled Purity in September of next year, to the edification of serious intellectuals nationwide. While Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux president Jonathan Galassi promises a “multigenerational American epic” that will deal with the ambitious subject matter Franzen is known for, the novel’s “mythic undertone” may be an interesting departure from his trademark social realism....more
The literature of Alzheimer’s is a cavern unexplored, but Stefan Merrill Block does his best for the New Yorker:
Nearly every novel I’ve read that attempts to depict the internal experience of Alzheimer’s also attempts to fit the disease’s retrogenic symptoms to one sort of sentimental trope: a reckoning with a repressed or unacknowledged truth that must come before acceptance is possible.
At The Millions, Tracy O’Neill deconstructs the Ritz-Carlton’s new “Six Word Wows” ad campaign. The hotel chain calls for guests to describe their stay in six words or less, using the hashtag #RCMemories, and claims to be ““Paying Homage to a Classic Ernest Hemingway Line.” O’Neill frames her essay with Thomas Frank’s assertion that, since the mid-90s, corporations have targeted consumers by playing up their nonconformity, creating the “Culture Trust: a corporate America that deploys the sensibilities of counterculture for profit.” However, O’Neill goes a step further, wondering if the campaign works, perhaps, because it gives patrons “an authorial role” and allows them to describe what they see as their extraordinary vacations....more
In an excerpt from her book The Shelf, Phyllis Rose illustrates the systematic dismissal of women writers through the imagined figure of Prospero’s Daughter: wealthy and educated yet burdened by the demands of a family life whose quotidian challenges, having monopolized her time, become central concerns in her work....more
(n.) a neighbor whose house is on fire; from the Ancient Greek character Ucalegon, an Elder of Troy whose house was set on fire by the Achaeans when they invaded the city.
Accomack is a small county that looked half-gutted even before the fire started, where love and fire could combine to transform two ordinary people’s lives into an epic romance.