Love him or hate him, Jonathan Franzen has sparked conversation

You have seen it on the train or bus, tucked under the arm or displayed; you saw him at the airport, gathered in a ziggurat in front of a thousand bookstores selling only three books; You don’t open a major newspaper or magazine (including this one) without seeing a review, an opinion piece, a short note: Street, Jonathan Franzen’s latest returning campaign. Love him or hate him, Franzen got the clicks, as the kids say these days. (I’m almost certain I used that word correctly.)

Like Halley’s Comet, Jonathan Franzen draws heavily on the unknown if a new story is discovered. One review finds that he is “widely regarded as the leading novelist of his generation,” another is the George Eliot of our time, producing a thousand angry and fiery passages. – see how excited the Los Angeles Times asked “Is Jonathan Franzen too big to fail?” Because you’ve seen Jonathan Franzen’s half-dozen unfinished movies about a mediocre white guy in 2008 working for a bank that’s too big to fail.

Robert Rubsam: “It is necessary to place yourself at the height of the greatest social history of our language, and Franzen has more than enough the right to try.”

Franzen appeared as a legend in 2001 with Regulations, a book that won him the 2001 Prize for Fiction and the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. (He lost the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction to Richard Russo’s Empire has fallen.) Regulations It has achieved what was thought impossible in the new series: It is highly praised and commercial at the same time.

Franzen actually published his first novel in 1988 and the second four years later, but Regulations It’s what Oprah Winfrey chose for her behemoth of a book club (and then ended up choosing when Franzen acted like a cad about the choice). Although his records did not have commercial or critical success of Regulationshe remains among the selected novelists who can compete for the Pulitzer Prize and the top spot on the best-seller lists every time out of the gate.

Street can beat him twice. Although critical comments have been mixed, the book made its name and face known this past month, with critics (including Robert Rubsam at America) calling the novel Franzen tried a new date Middlemarch, the great “community writer” of the English language. “It is necessary to put oneself at the level of the greatest social history of our language, and Franzen has more than enough the right to try,” wrote Rubsam. Street.

Through the wide-ranging story of one family’s crimes and struggles, “he wants to weave together those forces that have defined life for most of the American century, from economic chaos and carnage.” radical country to evangelicalism, the counterculture, the legacies of colonialism at home and their work. world through the Cold War. Through this family separation he will show the rupture of a country.

Rubsam is not fully sold on Franzen’s account of the Hildebrandt family, each member of whom is seeking self-fulfillment; he knows the “little point” of the story. “Street dissolves every form, every consciousness, back to what is found in the body. The characters attack every spot of light, leaving the world in all its richness and chaos with a sinister and unstable feeling,” he writes. “The cinematic sweep of the book can be sometimes like a painted panorama, full of detail but never resting. It seems the 20th century has conspired to destroy this local family.

Over the years, America has reviewed several other books by Franzen, including his 2010 novel Freedomhis 2015 novel Clean and his 2011 collection of essays, Far away. True book hounds will also enjoy this 2014 review by America deputy editor on Maurice Timothy Reidy of Boris Kachka Hot housethe story of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the small publishing house that still publishes many of the nation’s literary lights—Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides.

NB: All of Franzen’s books—stories or novels or novels—are physical works, and Street There is no difference in 592 pages. Just a warning if you are planning to use it to close Franny and Zooey as your glorious subway reads.

Street 592 pages long. Just a warning if you are planning to use it to close Franny and Zooey as your glorious subway reads.

If you find the above to be a deep dive into one author or topic, you are a close reader of American literary criticism. If you’re reading this line, you’re probably looking longer than 95 percent of readers. But you should know something different, a new venture for readers and fans of the Catholic Book Club: This is the first of what we hope will be a weekly column for all books. . In this weekly space, we’ll feature literary reviews and recommendations (both new and old; our archive spans 112 years), as well as music and giveaways. other from America Media. We hope this gives us the opportunity to provide you with a deeper understanding of our literature studies. We may notify digital subscribers of some of our website content that is not included in our newsletter.

On that subject, October is the arrival of AmericaThe “Fall Literary Review 2021,” one of two special editions we publish each year that focuses exclusively on the world of literature (with the occasional announcement of winning the fight to save the stomach). The wide range of styles and styles makes it difficult to choose a theme for each collection like this; Although I could try to relate Edgar Allan Poe’s science fiction to what it’s like to grow up Catholic in Las Vegas, it’s specific. With apologies to Walt Whitman, this issue is big: It’s public.

One of our two features in the issue is an excerpt from the novel by W. Ralph Eubanks, A Place Called Mississippi. Writing about his home state, Eubanks asks and answers an interesting question: Why should a small, economically disadvantaged state remain somewhere outside the world of American letters? “The beauty of the landscape combined with the complex history of the state inspires and motivates its writers,” he wrote. “It’s sad when I write about Mississippi, because it’s a place that everyone knows – or at least is forced to – but few people want to understand. “

Mitali Perkins: “Every time I re-read a story that I loved as a child, the encounter is richer and deeper, because I myself have changed in a way a reader.”

Few people think of Mississippi without thinking of Moscow (what?), and our second feature is the story of a Russian writer who is unknown in the United States but a prominent intellectual in his own right. Country: Olga Sedakova. A poet, historian, translator and ethnographer, he is “the most important Christian poet in the world today,” says Jim Curtis. In researching his book, Mr. Curtis on an interesting topic: “Is Russia’s Olga Sedakova the next Nobel Laureate?”

On a lighter note, Mitali Perkins’ problem has also been shown in books since childhood—and why we read them again, and again. While readers shouldn’t be encouraged to take Katherine Rundell’s advice, “think of children’s books as literary vodka,” Perkins strongly argues that we read too much. eat as a child.

“Each time I re-read a book I loved as a child, the encounter is richer and deeper, because I have changed as a reader. E as spices turn water into tea, so those stories changed my mind,” Perkins wrote. “But the process takes time. Madeleine L’Engle told a class of four in 1985, ‘The most important thing in growing up is that you don’t lose the other years you’ve passed. .’ When we read the books again, we see them as all the years we are as we are now. Our soul is full of stories.

There are many others to discover, including Mike Mastromatteo on the writings of Roland Merullo, Hannah E. Ryan on Flannery O’Connor, René Ostberg on the deChristianization of Ireland and more.

Two songs grace this special issue, including “Eviction—Paterson 2020,” by Gerald McCarthy. Readers (you’re signed in, aren’t you?) can access all of America’s music here. And if you’d like to join us in the Catholic Book Club, we’re reading and discussing Kirstin Valdez Quade’s first novel, The Five Fives; You can visit our Facebook page for the latest updates, as well as our website.

Happy reading!

James T. Keane

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: