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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back On The Job

Blogging about Jonathan Franzen's book of essays "How To Be Alone" on the day I finished it would have been a mistake; I needed distance to process my feelings about talent like this. How do you usually react when someone's talent blows you away? For me, it depends; this time I was temporarily immobilized.

Of the thirteen pieces here, written between 1994-2001, it's difficult to pick a favorite. I suspect if I re-read all of them next week, my favorite would change - they're all that good. "Sifting The Ashes" (1996), Franzen's reflection about smoking, is a nuanced juxtaposition of incisive thinking, genuine introspection & brilliant writing.  In "Scavenging" (also 1996), he describes how quickly the personas we create for ourselves become prisons. "Meet Me In St. Louis" (2001) struck me as an honest exploration of the flap  created when Franzen publicly admitted his ambivalence about his 2001 novel "The Corrections" being selected as an Oprah book.           

"The first lesson reading teaches us is how to be alone". To that sentence, from "The Reader In Exile" (1995), I say amen.


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