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Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was the best-loved and most-written-about novel of 2001. Nearly every in-depth review of it discussed what became known as "The Harper's Essay", Franzen's controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel. This essay is available in audio for the first time in How to be Alone, along with the personal essays and the dead-on reportage that earned Franzen a wide readership before the success of The Corrections.
Although his subjects range from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each piece wrestles with familiar themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Recent pieces include a moving essay on his father's stuggle with Alzheimer's disease (which has already been reprinted around the world) and a rueful account of Franzen's brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.
As a collection, these essays record what Franzen calls "a movement away from an angry and frightened isolation toward an acceptance - even a celebration - of being a reader and a writer." At the same time they show the wry distrust of the claims of technology and psychology, the love-hate relationship with consumerism, and the subversive belief in the tragic shape of the individual life that help make Franzen one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Riccardo Moschetti on 10-13-16
Franzen is a wonderful writer of novels. I did not know him as a writer of essays. Some of the essays of this book are touching. Too bad he only reads the first and the last. The others are read by someone who cannot convey Franzen's written emotion as - well - Franzen.
By Susan S. on 01-20-14
The first story is the best
The first story, " My Father's Brain" is outstanding and great for anyone going though dementia with a parent. The other stories, both the narrator and the text sounded whiny and cranky.
3 of 6 people found this review helpful