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Farther Away: Essays by Jonathan Franzen

Farther Away: Essays (2012)

by Jonathan Franzen

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    The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Jonathan Franzen preist den Roman von Christina Stead im Essay "Die tollste Familie, von der je erzählt wurde".

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Some of these essays were quite interesting. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Some of these essays were quite interesting. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Franzen essays are about birds, literature, David Foster Wallace and anti-consumerism. He is able to precisely explain what he likes about literature --pure storytelling, an absence of faux literary tricks and moral ambiguity. Franzen is the most aggressively decent person you will ever come across. Or is he just outlandishly passive-agressive? ( )
  byebyelibrary | Nov 30, 2013 |
Satisfying and thought-provoking, as all of Franzen's essay collections are.

From "The Corn King (on Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers)"
The entire novel is shadowed by the insight, or fear, or premonition, that postmodernity doesn't lead us forward but backward to the primitive: that our huge and hard-won sum of knowledge will ultimately prove useless and be lost. (117)

From "On Autobiographical Fiction"
A writer has to begin somewhere, but where exactly he or she begins is almost random. (122)
It's not enough to love your characters, and it's not enough to be hard on your characters: you always have to try to be doing both at the same time. (122)
When I'm working, I don't want anybody else in the room, including myself. (125)

From "David Foster Wallace (memorial service remarks, October 23, 2008)"
...a way of connecting, on relatively safe middle ground, with another human being.
Which was, approximately, the description of literature that he and I came up with... (163-164)

From "Authentic But Horrible (on Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening)"
Comedy requires only that you have a heart that can recognize other hearts. (235)

From "What Makes You So Sure You're Not the Evil One Yourself?"
[Alice Munro] is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I saw that fiction is my religion. (291)

From "No End To It"
A serious danger in long marriages is how excruciatingly well you come to know the object of your love. (318) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 15, 2013 |
The book jacket advises,"In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him". Especially, one might add, the theme of himself.

Snark aside, Franzen comes across in these essays as a very intelligent, hard-working writer - a real professional - with a massive sense of self. That's not to say he's arrogant, and he's entirely up front about the approach to writing that interests him: "My conception of a novel is that it ought to be a personal struggle, a direct and total engagement with the author's story of his or her own life." (129, from 'On Autobiographical Fiction'). Virtually all the pieces in this (mostly non-fiction) collection reflect that deep engagement.

Two factors make them worth reading even for those of us less personally engaged in Franzen's autobiography. First, Franzen delivers arresting insights and observations on other topics - bird habitat in China, Cypress, and Malta; the way technology has changed our behavior; and especially, how writers write well. If you think about it, you probably have a friend or relative like this - everything in their presence is about them, not sooner or later, but continuously; but they're fascinating company, and anyway, you're not going to change them. Here's the second reason to read these essays: in the best ones, such as the reviews of Alica Munro's short stories ('What Makes You So Sure You're Not the Evil One Yourself?') and Paula Fox's Desperate Characters ('No End To It'), Franzen addresses subjects he seemingly can't bring into orbit around himself. The resulting tension lights up these essays, opening up space for the reader to sit, absorb, and think independently.

Unlike perhaps the majority of other readers, the one piece in this collection that I think misses the mark is the title essay, 'Further Away', about Franzen's trip to Selkirk Island (setting for Robinson Crusoe's real-life alter ego). There, he contemplates loneliness, risks falling off a cliff while searching for a rare bird in a storm, and mourns his late friend, David Foster Wallace. As always, the writing is elegant; but the piece seems to me to reflect a waypoint in a much longer grieving process, before Franzen had really found a way to absorb Wallace's suicide into the narrative of his own life. For example: Franzen acknowledges that Wallace was depressed and in great pain before his suicide, but on another level, can't let go of a conception of Wallace as a calculating, and therefore morally culpable, actor. The piece is heartfelt and at points beautiful, but lacks the internal balance and integration of most of the other essays. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jan 27, 2013 |
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You could call what he’s after secular humanism, a belief that by relentlessly asking the right questions, we can live ethical lives committed to the gradual betterment of society.

This can be seen in the very title of his 2001 novel, “The Corrections,” and in the moral contortions that the book’s hero and Franzen stand-in, Chip, undertakes as he flails around in search of a way to live untainted by the crimes of society.
added by Shortride | editThe Forward, Joshua Furst (May 24, 2012)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374153574, Hardcover)

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was the runaway most-discussed novel of 2010, an ambitious and searching engagement with life in America in the twenty-first century. In The New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus proclaimed it “a masterpiece of American fiction” and lauded its illumination, “through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, [of] the world we thought we knew.”

In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recounting his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his mixed feelings about the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace, or offering a moving and witty take on the ways that technology has changed how people express their love, these pieces deliver on Franzen’s implicit promise to conceal nothing. On a trip to China to see first-hand the environmental devastation there, he doesn’t omit mention of his excitement and awe at the pace of China’s economic development; the trip becomes a journey out of his own prejudice and moral condemnation. Taken together, these essays trace the progress of unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day. Farther Away is remarkable, provocative, and necessary.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:59 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In "Farther Away," which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him.

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