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Farther away
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. 2012


1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
Physical Description:
321 pages ; 22 cm
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 (2008) -- 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.
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.

"In this incisive collection of speeches and essays, Jonathan Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recalling his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his 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. A remarkable and revelatory work from one of our greatest living novelists, Farther Away traces the progress of a unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day."--Publisher's description.


Call Number
814.54 FRANZEN
814 Franzen
814.54 FRANZEN 2012
814.54 FRANZEN
814.54 Franzen 2012

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Jonathan Franzen was born in Western Springs, Illinois on August 17, 1959. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1981, and went on to study at the Freie University in Berlin as a Fulbright scholar. He worked in a seismology lab at Harvard University's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences after graduation.

His works include The Twenty-Seventh City (1988), Strong Motion (1992), How to Be Alone (2002), and The Discomfort Zone (2006). The Corrections (2001) won a National Book Award and the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Freedom (2010) is an Oprah Book Club selection. He also won a Whiting Writers' Award in 1988 and the American Academy's Berlin Prize in 2000. He is also a frequent contributor to Harper's and The New Yorker. In 2015 his title Purity made The New Yort Times and New Zealand Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's 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.

Kirkus 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.

Booklist Review

*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

New York Review of Books Review

As we should all know by now, Jonathan Franzen is a serious writer who plays for the highest literary stakes, who is uncomfortable with American TV consumerism, and whose last two novels, "The Corrections" and "Freedom," have legitimately catapulted him to the front ranks of American fiction. Less known is that he has also published three nonfiction books, "How to Be Alone" (essays), "The Discomfort Zone" (a short memoir) and, now, a second essay collection, "Farther Away." The nonfiction of pre-eminent novelists is bound to fascinate, shedding light on their mentality and fictional practice, even if such authors seem to be giving less than full energy to this second-choice genre. Saul Bellow, for instance, wrote magnificently essayistic fiction, but his actual essays pale by comparison; similarly, John Updike was an ever-graceful critic, but few of his nonfiction pieces stir the blood the way his short stories or novels can. There have been exceptions, of course, including Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence or, in our own day, J. M. Coetzee and Cynthia Ozick. Most dyed-in-the-wool novelists, however, do not excel at the essay, for good reason: they are wired otherwise. And so we come to Franzen's latest collection, which, while not nearly as strong as his novels, still has its attractions, as might be expected from so insightful and resourceful a writer. The book begins with a commencement address, "Pain Won't Kill You," which may be summarized as: Get past your adolescent brooding; turn off your narcissismpromoting social media; drag yourself out of your room; engage with the natural world (he chose birds) and your fellow human beings; try to love, and embrace the hurt and messiness that love entails. This message, delivered in a casual colloquial style to the graduating class and in a more urgent manner elsewhere, runs through the essay collection. The author is not shy about preaching simple morality; he can be both hedgehog and fox, and here he is often the hedgehog, with convictions born out of a personal crisis and the lessons learned. That crisis, which he discusses freely in these pages, stemmed from the failure of his youthful marriage and his attendant depression, guilt and shame. His overcoming the anguish successfuUy is reproduced here in what we might call a Healing Narrative. It is no accident that the graduation speech was presented at Kenyon College, the very same venue where David Foster Wallace had given his famous commencement address several years previously. These pages are haunted by Wallace, whose suicide hit the author, his good friend, hard. In the title essay, Franzen goes off to an island in the South Pacific Ocean to bird-watch, to recoup his sense of identity after a grueling, boring book tour - and to allow himself to feel, by imposed isolation, the fullness of grief that he had been keeping at bay. Wallace's widow, Karen, has given the author some of her husband's ashes to distribute on that beautiful island. Though Franzen mocks himself for playing at Robinson Crusoe, this is essentially a solemn, somber essay, and a flawed one - too attenuated for the redemption it mechanically delivers (mission accomplished: he cries and sprinkles the ashes), too truncated to process all the murky emotions that lie beneath the surface. "ONCE, when we were driving near Stinson Beach, in California, I'd stopped to give him a telescope view of a long-billed curlew, a species whose magnificence is to my mind self-evident and revelatory. He looked through the scope for two seconds before turning away with patent boredom. 'Yeah,' he said with his particular tone of hollow politeness, 'it's pretty.' In the summer before he died, sitting with him on his patio while he smoked cigarettes, I couldn't keep my eyes off the hummingbirds around his house and was saddened that he could, and while he was taking his heavily medicated afternoon naps I was learning the birds of Ecuador for an upcoming trip, and I understood the difference between his unmanageable misery and my manageable discontents to be that I could escape myself in the joy of birds and he could not." One can read this passage as both compassionate and gloating. Franzen manfully admits to competing with Wallace, but cannot refrain from similar comparisons in his favor, like: "It was time to accept finitude and incompleteness and leave certain birds forever unseen, that the ability to accept this was the gift I'd been given and my beloved dead friend had not." There is also the occasional clunky, ex-graduate student diction: "If boredom is the soil in which the seeds of addiction sprout, and if the phenomenology and the teleology of suicidality are the same as those of addiction, it seems fair to say that David died of boredom." Here are some reasons, I think, that Franzen's essays do not match his fiction. While his prose is always cogent, he is not that consistently stylish a sentence writer. Essays put a different kind of pressure on the sentence, calling for more aphoristic compression and wit His novels work best through patient accumulation of social detail and character development. By contrast, the I-character in his essays is not as strongly developed, nor as vivid. He is better able to convey moral irony by dramatizing a fictional conflict than by baldly stating his views. Finally, since, as he puts it, "fiction is my religion," he may simply be a literary monotheist who has never fully grasped the imaginative and expressive possibilities of nonfiction; he's not trying to catch that fire. When he speaks of the authors who influenced him, they are all fiction writers. The collection features a lovely personal essay, "I Just Called to Say I Love You," which begins as an amusingly grumpy rant against cellphone users, who intrude their private "I love you"s onto his public space, and transforms into a touching portrait of his parents. We have met these two people before, more or less, as Alfred and Enid, the parents in "The Corrections," and the author again writes wonderfully about his stoical father and overdemonstrative mother. There are also several deft journalistic pieces of ecotravel reportage, one involving the killing of birds in the Mediterranean, another, the efforts of Chinese bird-watchers in a country facing radical habitat loss. Franzen pays tribute, in a series of graceful appreciations, to some quirky and unjustly neglected writers: James Purdy, Donald Antrim, Paula Fox, Frank Wedekind (if only he didn't try to sell Wedekind to us as a proto-rocker!). He also argues that the great short story writer Alice Munro has not gotten her due. These valentines demonstrate his generosity, humanity and love of fiction, as well as his own preference for the morally complex over the sentimental. The struggle to be a good human being, against the pulls of solipsism and narcissism, can be glimpsed in every page of these essays, which if nothing else offer a telling battle report from within the consciousness of one of our major novelists. The non fiction of pre-eminent novelists is bound to fascinate, shedding light on their mentality and fictional practice. Phillip Lopate directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University. His collections include "Bachelorhood" and "Against Joie de Vivre."

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.

Table of Contents

Pain Won't Kill You (2011)p. 3
Farther Away (2011)p. 15
The Greatest Family Ever Storied (2010)p. 53
Hornets (2010)p. 67
The Ugly Mediterranean (2010)p. 73
The Corn King (2010)p. 111
On Autobiographical Fiction (2009)p. 119
I Just Called to Say I Love You (2008)p. 141
David Foster Wallace (2008)p. 161
The Chinese Puffin (2008)p. 169
On the Laughing Policeman (2008)p. 213
Comma-Then (2008)p. 219
Authentic But Horrible (2007)p. 225
Interview with New York State (2007)p. 237
Love Letters (2005)p. 263
Our Little Planet (2005)p. 271
The End of the Binge (2005)p. 277
What Makes You So Sure You're Not the Evil One Yourself? (2004)p. 283
Our Relations: A Brief History (2004)p. 297
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (2002)p. 303
No End to It (1998)p. 311