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How To Be Alone, Essays by Jonathan Franzen

How To Be Alone, Essays (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Jonathan Franzen

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Title:How To Be Alone, Essays
Authors:Jonathan Franzen
Info:Farrar, 2002 (2002), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:essays, american, non-fiction, Jonathan Franzen

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How to Be Alone: Essays by Jonathan Franzen (2002)

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About "Why Bother?": Like sitting at a cafe listening to a depressed cynic whose intelligence and style keep you there, despite the sinking feeling in your heart and knowing that this guy should step outside of himself now and then. ( )
  wrk1 | Jan 15, 2014 |
This book of essays was quite entertaining. I found the essays about subjects other than the state of literature to be the most entertaining. Some of the essays are from the 90s and reflect the sensibilities and uncertainty of how technology and the internet will develop and affect our lives. I did get bored with the essays on the state of literature. The first one was decent but the other two felt sort of rehashed. Perhaps this is the case because of their age of the essays and the fact I have read other more recent and similar essays.

When Franzen is "on" he is definitely "on". The essay on Alzheimer's and his fathers decline was endearing and heartbreaking, the essays on the colorado prisons and the mail problems in chicago were both enlightening and highly entertaining.

This was enjoyable to read straight through but I also feel that it would be a good book to read off and on depending on your mood. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
The right book at the right time.

"The first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone." -p. 178 ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
I really do love Franzen's writing, but this collection didn't wow me. Many of the essays here aren't so much essays as articles; they read more like journalistic explorations of entities (prisons, post office corruption) rather than personal explorations of thoughts or concepts. He has some really interesting points, though many of them get bogged down in academia.

My larger concern, though, is how dated many of these essays seem to be. The most recent in the collection was 2002--not a fault of the collection, which came out shortly after that--but it's surprising that these don't hold up over time. Reading this in 2008 makes some of his late-'90s references sound anachronistic, though I'm sure they were just fine at the time.

I feel a mild disappointment, but it's not the fault of the book. Had I read it five, six years ago, I may have enjoyed it more.

Sidenote: what's Franzen been doing since The Corrections, besides showing up on The Simpsons? Doesn't he know I want to see another novel from him? ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 31, 2013 |
Set of melancholic essays about the nature of American society in the early 2000s. Some are relevant, but some are out of date and seem to be written for Luddites, who fear any technology. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312422164, Paperback)

Jonathan Franzen is smart and brash, the kind of person you want as your social critic but not as a brother-in-law. Many of the 14 essays in How to Be Alone, by the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Corrections, first appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and elsewhere. A long, much-discussed rumination on the American novel, (newly) titled "Why Bother?," is included, as well as essays on privacy obsession, the U.S. post office, New York City, big tobacco, and new prisons. At his best, as in "My Father's Brain," a piece on his father's struggle with Alzheimer's, Franzen can make the ordinary world utterly riveting. But at times, it can be difficult to discern where Franzen stands on any particular subject, as he often takes both sides of an argument. Valid attempts to reflect ambiguity s! ometimes lead to obfuscation, especially in his essays on privacy and tobacco, although his belief that small-town America of years gone by offered the individual little privacy certainly rings true. Franzen can write with panache, as in this comment after he watched, without headphones, a TV show during a flight: "(It) became an exposé of the hydraulics of insincere smiles." A few of the shorter pieces appear to be filler. Franzen shines brightest when he gets edgy and a little angry, as in "The Reader in Exile": "Instead of Manassas battlefield, a historical theme park. Instead of organizing narratives, a map of the world as complex as the world itself. Instead of a soul, membership in a crowd. Instead of wisdom, data." --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:04 -0400)

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The author presents his 1996 work, "The Harper's Essay," offering additional writings that consider a central theme of the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the increasing persistence of loneliness in postmodern American.

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