How to Be Alone

How to Be Alone


Book - 2002 | 1st ed.
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Passionate, strong-minded nonfiction from the National Book Award-winning author of The Correction s 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 reprinted 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.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780374173272
Characteristics: 278 p. ; 22 cm.


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Dec 11, 2017

A good collection of good essays; most of them were written in the mid to late 1990s, and they have not aged badly - much of what he says is still (!) relevant today (e.g., "...if our legislatures weren't purchasable, if the concepts of honour and personal responsibility hadn't largely given way to the power of litigation and the dollar... [destructive industry would not still be flourishing]" page 161), on books about sex, privacy, the nature and value of reading literature, and capitalism's effect on people's encounter with the meaning of life. My favourites were "Scavenging" (please note, the first bracket is not a misprint : it eventually closes) and "Why bother?"

RustyRook Feb 11, 2012

A wonderful collection of essays by Jon Franzen. His writing is crisp, precise and has a hard-to-describe fluidity.
Franzen covers a lot of different material: there's an essay about Franzen's father's Alzheimer's near the start of the book; the wonderful "Why Bother?" in which he considers the place of fiction (and the habit of reading) in modern society; and even one about sex-advice books near the end.
Most of the essays deliver clear social commentary, and though I disagreed with Franzen here and there, it was a pleasure to read such well-thought (and, again, well-written) opinions.
There is also humour in the book. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but mostly it's soft, considered humour.
Get it and enjoy it!


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