Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
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.
Pain won't kill you (2011) -- Farther away (2011) -- The greatest family ever storied (2010) -- Hornets (2010) -- The ugly Mediterranean (2010) -- The corn king (2010) -- On autobiographical fiction (2009) -- I just called to say I love you (2008) -- David Foster Wallace (2008) -- The Chinese puffin (2008) -- On The laughing policeman (2008) -- Comma-then (2008) -- Authentic but horrible (2007) -- Interview with New York state (2007) -- Love letters (2005) -- Our little planet (2005) -- The end of the binge (2005) -- What makes you so sure you're not the evil one yourself? (2004) -- Our relations : a brief history (2004) -- The man in the gray flannel suit (2002) -- No end to it (1998).
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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Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Do you say "Love you!" when ending cell phone conversations? If so Franzen (Freedom) may have an issue with you. In his essay "I Just Called to Say I Love You," he states that the cell phone "enables and encourages the inflicting of the personal and individual on the public and communal." While shopping, waiting for a plane to depart, or walking down the street, he does not want to be pulled into "the sticky world of some nearby human being's home life." In this collection of 21 essays and speeches written from 1998 to 2011, readers see the world through Franzen's eyes-including when those eyes are engaged in his leisure pursuit of bird-watching-but for the most part he zeroes in on how society impacts the individual, mainly via technology, and how people influence one another. His remarks at the memorial service for David Foster Wallace are also included, as is his address to the 2011 Kenyon College graduating class. VERDICT Readers get a good look at Franzen's keen observations here, which help make this an excellent collection for fans of his fiction as well as for aspiring writers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/11.]-Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Franzen (The Corrections) follows up his 2010 blockbuster novel, Freedom, with a collection of recent essays, speeches, and reviews, in which he lays out a view of literature in which storytelling and character development trump lyrical acrobatics, and unearths a few forgotten classics. Franzen's easy dismissal of a few canonical works, such as Ulysses, may invite contention, but when in his native realm-books that revel in the frustrations, despairs, and near-blisses of human relationships-he is an undeniably perceptive reader. In other essays, he confronts an epidemic of songbird hunting in the Mediterranean, tracks a novelty golf club cover back to a Chinese factory to investigate that nation's notoriously ambivalent stance toward environmental conservation, and withdraws to a remote South American island to meditate on Robinson Crusoe and the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace. He also weighs in on Facebook's narcissistic death spiral and the way the "sexy" new gadgets that never seem to leave our fingertips get in the way of real life and relationships, as well as the uneasy subject of autobiographical fiction and the effect a failed marriage had on his early novels. This intimate read is packed with provocative questions about technology, love, and the state of the contemporary novel. Agent: Susan Golomb Agency. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Franzen performs a profoundly evocative feat of literary triangulation in the title essay in his third and strongest essay collection. He describes a harrowing stay on a remote desert island in the South Pacific. He conducts a rigorous and revealing inquiry into Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. And, with anger, grief, and love, he pays homage to his late friend and kindred writer, David Foster Wallace, uniting all three strands together in a haunting meditation on loneliness, the solace of fiction, and suicide. That Franzen can juggle multiple subjects, perspectives, moral dilemmas, and tones (he shifts readily from the comedic to the elegiac) is no surprise in the wake of his many-faceted epic, Freedom (2010). Anyone curious about what drives Franzen, an intense, edgy, and skeptical writer of acute moral intelligence, will find much that is deeply illuminating here as he writes about his love and concern for birds, especially in bewitching, alarming, and painfully funny accounts of risky sojourns in Cyprus, where the poaching of songbirds runs rampant, and China, where birds are imperiled by habitat loss and pollution. Here, too, are distinctive insights into the many-pointed impact of digital technology and superlative critiques of the work of other fiction writers. Franzen is at once a nuanced and clarion champion of literature and nature.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Further dispatches from one of contemporary literature's most dependable talents. Franzen (Freedom, 2010, etc.) returns with a nonfiction collection that includes book reviews, reportage and personal reflections on such topics as the social scourge of cell phones and the pleasures of bird-watching, but the collection as a whole is haunted by the author's relationship with David Foster Wallace, a peer similarly lauded for erudition and seriousness of purpose who committed suicide in 2008. Wallace's suicide provides the emotional ballast for the title essay, an account of Franzen's sojourn to an impossibly remote island where he hoped to escape the demands of modern technology, see some exceedingly rare birds and scatter the ashes of his dead friend. The piece functions as travelogue, a reckoning with the novel Robinson Crusoe and a howl of despair at the suicide of a friend, and Franzen's formidable intelligence and literary skill combine these strands into an unforgettably lyrical meditation on solitude and loss. Elsewhere, the author makes impassioned cases for such obscure novels as The Hundred Brothers and The Man Who Loved Children, recounts hair-raising adventures protecting endangered birds on Cyprus from poachers, wrestles with Chinese bureaucracy and the ethical implications of golf and, in a whimsical, digressive faux interview with the state of New York, manages a highly amusing impersonation of Wallace's lighter work. Franzen can get a bit schoolmarmish and crotchety in his caviling against the horrors of modern society, and he perhaps overestimates the appeal of avian trivia to the general reader, but anyone with an interest in the continued relevance of literature and in engaging with the world in a considered way will find much here to savor. An unfailingly elegant and thoughtful collection of essays from the formidable mind of Franzen, written with passion and haunted by loss.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.