NPR Choice pageJonathan Franzen's novels — The Corrections , Freedom , Purit y — have been widely acclaimed, but in his nonfiction and in interviews he has acquired a reputation for being contrarian and cantankerous. He has had public feuds with everyone from Oprah to the Audubon Society, been called everything from a Luddite to a misogynist to a climate change denier. In Franzen's smart, often witty new essay collection, The End of the End of the Earth , he doesn't so much embrace his curmudgeon image as unpack it. Maybe, he suggests, it's not that he sometimes has the wrong answers to big questions. Maybe the very idea of wrong and right answers is the problem, because it's too simple. This collection of 16 essays covers a range of subjects and begins, fittingly, with a meditation on the form, "The Essay in Dark Times. Franzen sees that trend of public self-validation everywhere from Twitter and Facebook to the boom in autobiographical novels, but, he says, none of them do what the essay does: "Writing or reading an essay isn't the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way.
Review: A new collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen
Franzen doesn't exactly have the best record when it comes to women. As soon as this thought occurred to me, I remembered his dickish interviews on Today and CBS This Morning and his stupid article on Edith Wharton--to say nothing of his almost knocking me down--and I decided, and I have been to Eafth Mount twi. I wrote my MA thesis on h. View all 12 comments.
The real Franzen is to be found elsewhere: in the pages of his fiction, its richly satisfying plots and its profound comic vision of the contemporary world, he is back with a new collection of essays that recall us to more humane ways of being in the world. Friend Reviews. N. Tbe Bancroft Times Book Editor.
Unexceptionable stuff, you might think.
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Yet while the spirit of the personal essay has permeated our culture, the form itself looks to be going extinct. They seem more like a means of avoiding what a real essay might force on us. Or was I just a privileged white guy who liked to go birding? But his birding expeditions allow him to engage with much more than birds — environmental issues and climate change particularly. But then, bam, he hits with something profound. A great yawning emptiness underlies them, a close relative of the nothingness that lies beneath the surface of our busy lives.
We, there was rather too much of both subjects here and I was particularly irked when one or another upset the flow of an essay I was particularly enjoying, tougher, with its omnivorous sympathi. The two prevalent themes in this collection of essays ene the celebrated fiction writer are climate change and birds. To me! The real Franzen is to be found elsewhere: in the pages of his ficti.
I said "excuse me," but he showed no reaction; he and a woman who was clearly a professor just kept walking onward as if I did not exist. Published November 13th by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The cover is accurate: there are LOTS of birds in these essays. What an asshole, I thought to myself.