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How to be Alone
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About the Author

Jonathan Franzen won the National Book Award for fiction for The Corrections in 2001, and is the author of two other critically acclaimed novels, The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and Harper's.

Reviews

Bestselling and National Book Award- winning novelist Franzen (The Corrections) urges readers to say no to drugs, but not the pharmaceutical kind; his opiates are those "technology offers in the form of TV, pop culture, and endless gadgetry," soporifics that "are addictive and in the long run only make society's problems worse." Franzen's just as hard on intellectual conformity-on academe's canonization of third-rate but politically correct novels, for example. As a serious artist, he knows that the deck is stacked against him; after all, a great novel is a kind of antiproduct, one that is "inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable." The problem, he says, is that instead of being allowed to enjoy our solitary uniqueness we are all being turned into one gigantic corporate-created entity, a point Franzen makes tellingly when he says that while a black lesbian New Yorker and a Southern Baptist Georgian might appear totally different, the truth is that both "watch Letterman every night, both are struggling to find health insurance... both play Lotto, both dream of fifteen minutes of fame, both are taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and both have a guilty crush on Uma Thurman." These canny, well-researched essays (which have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's and elsewhere) range over a variety of subjects, from the antiquated and bizarrely inefficient Chicago postal system to the bizarrely efficient new privatized federal prisons, but they are united by a single passionate insistence that, in a cookie-cutter world, people who want simply to be themselves should have the right to do so. (Oct.) Forecast: This cultural critique is unlikely to sell like The Corrections, but anyone who missed the controversial 1996 "Harper's essay" can catch it here in slightly revised form, and Franzen's many admirers will buy it. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"The welcome paradox in How to be Alone is that the reader need not feel isolated at all. . ..This collection emphasizes [Franzen's] elegance, acumen and daring as an essayist, with an intellectually engaging self-awareness as formidable as Joan Didion's." --The New York Times "Why be alone? For the pleasure of reading books such as this." --Entertainment Weekly "Franzen critiques the alienating effects of postmodern America with just as much passion as he displays in his fiction. . .he cuts to the truth with razor-sharp precision. . . These essays offer a great reason to turn of the TV and spend the evening alone, lost in thought." --Time Out New York "How to be Alone reaffirms the novelist's prerogative to engage in social criticism. And Franzen's calm, passionate critical authority derives not from any special expertise in criminology, neurology or postal science, but rather from the fact that, as a novelist, he is principally concerned with the messy architecture of the self." --The New York Times Book Review "There is here the eloquence and sensitivity and profound personal engagement that is only possible with the printed word--and, even then, only when it has no fear of being literature. Put Franzen among the living heroes of it." --The Buffalo News

Remember the controversial Harper's essay on the American novel? That's in this collection, along with commentary on life, technology, and Oprah. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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