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How to Be Alone: Essays

by

How to Be Alone: Essays Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics

While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity; and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzens controversial l996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as "the Harper's essay," as well as his award-winning narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey 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. He lives in New York City.

A New York Times Notable Book

While the essays in the this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity, and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzen's controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as "the Harper's essay," as well as his award-winning narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author. This paperback edition of How to Be Alone has been revised and expanded to include the recent essay "Mr. Difficult."

"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 post 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

"Captivating . . . The welcome paradox in How to Be Alone is that the reader need not feel isolated at all. The author makes himself a colorful presence throughout these essays complete with his slew of improbably attractive quirks . . . Mr. Franzen frequently celebrates the realization that being alone with a good book is the very opposite of an isolating experience. With considerable wit and minimal curmudgeonliness, he also laments the scarcity of such experiences in a culture that is co-opted and consumed by non-literary temptations. He admits to being enough of a purist to think longingly of times when 'a new book by Thackeray or William Dean Howells was anticipated with the kind of fever that a late-December film release inspires today' . . . This collection emphasizes his elegance, acumen, and daring as an essayist, with an intellectually engaging self-awareness as formidable as Joan Didion's."Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"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 post 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

"Franzen is one of the most nuanced minds at work in the dwindling republic of letters . . . Do good books matter anymore? This one does."Time

"A graceful meditation on reading and writing in a digital age . . . Franzen probes two very simple ideas: 'the movement away from an angry and frightened isolation toward an acceptanceeven a celebrationof being a reader and a writer' and 'the problem of preserving individuality and complexity in a noisy and distracting mass culture.'"Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., The Altanta Journal-Constitution

"Franzen believes the monolithic quality of the U.S. media, its jingoistic flattening of complex issues and the rush to hop on the information superhighway are a constant assault on the internal lives of Americans . . . These are essays about the pain of being an American in a time when the means to alleviating pain threaten to dehumanize pain itself, when the means for entertaining ourselves have become so sophisticated it's almost hard to complain. There's some boldness, then, in how Franzen reclaims his pain on the page, owning up to it and, as any good journalist will, making it our own, too."John Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle

"Although Franzen calls them 'essays' many of these pieces are reportage. He's good at it . . . All these pieces place both writer and reader on firm ground . . . He goes out on many a limb (as essayists should) and gives us a good many things to think about, such as the blurring line between private and public behavior in the age of the 24-hour news cycle."Dan Sullivan, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"How To Be Alone impresses with the consistency of its concerns . . . As he bemoans the decline of the engaged social novel, of the city, of the US post office, Franzen risks sounding at best like a fogey, at worst like a scaremongering Luddite; but this is counteracted by wit, aphoristic flair and a critical awareness of the ironies of an accelerated culture; where cutting-edge writing is forced to react against, refuse, resist the advance of cutting-edge technology . . . His next move is going to be fascinating: poised between the twin abysses of celebrity and neglect, which way will he jump?"Paul Quinn, The Times Literary Supplement (London)

"If Franzen had not been anointed to the Higher Calling of Literature, he might have made a terrific journalist . . . Two of the reportage pieces are models of the New Journalism."Roger K. Miller, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"Franzen is a charming and sagacious writer, even an important one, a man who cares about literature and who cares about the problems of modernityrace, urban sprawl, corporate hegemony. Books matter, is the final message. A keen intellect is at work here, even though Franzen often seems to be arguing with himself; perhaps How to Be Alone is most brilliant when the author is arguing with himself. Jonathan Franzen has a restless mind and we are better for it."Corey Mesler, The Memphis Commercial Appeal

"Why be alone? For the pleasure of reading books such as this."Entertainment Weekly

"A collection of essays diverse and entertaining . . . Smart, solid, and well-paced: a pleasure for Franzen's many admirers."Kirkus Reviews

"[Franzen] demonstrates his remarkable capacity for evaluating the American scene . . . The journalistic pieces included in the book show that Franzen ain't afraid to face facts . . . Essays covering the tobacco industry and the 2001 presidential election, as well as consumerism and the nature of privacy in America, offer rare evaluations of the modern world as we know it."Bookpage

Review:

"These canny, well-researched essays...range over a variety of subjects...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." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"The other essays, most previously published in Details, the New Yorker, and elsewhere, deliver sufficient bang for the book, though none quite stands up to the centerpiece [Harper's essay]....Smart, solid, and well-paced: a pleasure for Franzen's many remaining admirers." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The author makes himself a colorful presence throughout these essays....This collection emphasizes his elegance, acumen and daring as an essayist....He's funny, too....How to Be Alone is a captivating but uneven collection. Some of its entries have clearly aged better than others....The more recent entries, less showy about their brilliance, tend to flow more smoothly." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"I reached the limits of my tolerance for most essays about "the writer's life" long ago, but I've always got time for good writing about reading. The miscellaneous pieces in this collection are not exclusively on that subject — there are reported pieces on the Chicago post office, prisons and Franzen's father's death from Alzheimer's disease, as well — but the author of The Corrections has a respect for readers and a concern for the practice of reading that's surprisingly and lamentably rare among his colleagues....If the collection has any one theme, it's a very welcome one, on the value of privacy, of stretching out in the space inside one's own head and of not allowing your preoccupations to be dictated by the media's jangly siren song." Laura Miller, Salon.com

Review:

"As a nonfiction advocate for his one-man novelistic cause, Franzen doesn't ape the Norman Mailer of Advertisements for Myself and flaunt his ambition like a Popeye tattoo, muscling aside the competition to clear more legroom for himself in the first-class section. Nor does he try to blow up the rickety structures blocking his own fictional constructions, like Tom Wolfe in some of his broadsides. As with so many of his generation, Franzen is conflicted about conflict. Arguing is what grownups do when they are mad (Mommy, Daddy, don't fight); and swagger doesn't play well on the current scene, which has partly converted into a Generation X recovery ward for the depressed, medicated, and formerly addicted children of divorce. Rather than swinging from the heels, he hugs the ropes in these essays, taking all the pain, the indignity, and the bland indifference that a mass-media culture can inflict on a passionate bookworm. He is not a masochist, he is a shrewd passive-aggressive (aren't they all?), courting sympathy by constantly telling us where he hurts and fastening reader interest on himself, regardless of the issue or controversy. No matter what is flying around Franzen, the soft-focus lens is always on him." James Wolcott, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopsis:

From the National Book Award-winning author of "The Corrections," a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of the sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.

Synopsis:

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics

While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity; and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzens controversial l996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as "the Harper's essay," as well as his award-winning narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

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.

Table of Contents

"A Word About This Book"

"My Father's Brain"

"Imperial Bedroom"

"Why Bother"

"Lost in the Mail"

"Erika Imports"

"Sifting the Ashes"

"A Reader in Exile"

"First City"

"Scavenging"

"Control Units"

"Mr. Difficult"

"Books in Bed"

"Meet Me in St. Louis"

"Inauguration Day, January 2001"

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312422165
Author:
Franzen, Jonathan
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Regional, Ethnic, Genre, Specific Subject
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
Anthologies-Essays
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20031031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.44 x 0.88 in

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

How to Be Alone: Essays Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Picador USA - English 9780312422165 Reviews:
"Review" by , "These canny, well-researched essays...range over a variety of subjects...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."
"Review" by , "The other essays, most previously published in Details, the New Yorker, and elsewhere, deliver sufficient bang for the book, though none quite stands up to the centerpiece [Harper's essay]....Smart, solid, and well-paced: a pleasure for Franzen's many remaining admirers."
"Review" by , "The author makes himself a colorful presence throughout these essays....This collection emphasizes his elegance, acumen and daring as an essayist....He's funny, too....How to Be Alone is a captivating but uneven collection. Some of its entries have clearly aged better than others....The more recent entries, less showy about their brilliance, tend to flow more smoothly."
"Review" by , "I reached the limits of my tolerance for most essays about "the writer's life" long ago, but I've always got time for good writing about reading. The miscellaneous pieces in this collection are not exclusively on that subject — there are reported pieces on the Chicago post office, prisons and Franzen's father's death from Alzheimer's disease, as well — but the author of The Corrections has a respect for readers and a concern for the practice of reading that's surprisingly and lamentably rare among his colleagues....If the collection has any one theme, it's a very welcome one, on the value of privacy, of stretching out in the space inside one's own head and of not allowing your preoccupations to be dictated by the media's jangly siren song."
"Review" by , "As a nonfiction advocate for his one-man novelistic cause, Franzen doesn't ape the Norman Mailer of Advertisements for Myself and flaunt his ambition like a Popeye tattoo, muscling aside the competition to clear more legroom for himself in the first-class section. Nor does he try to blow up the rickety structures blocking his own fictional constructions, like Tom Wolfe in some of his broadsides. As with so many of his generation, Franzen is conflicted about conflict. Arguing is what grownups do when they are mad (Mommy, Daddy, don't fight); and swagger doesn't play well on the current scene, which has partly converted into a Generation X recovery ward for the depressed, medicated, and formerly addicted children of divorce. Rather than swinging from the heels, he hugs the ropes in these essays, taking all the pain, the indignity, and the bland indifference that a mass-media culture can inflict on a passionate bookworm. He is not a masochist, he is a shrewd passive-aggressive (aren't they all?), courting sympathy by constantly telling us where he hurts and fastening reader interest on himself, regardless of the issue or controversy. No matter what is flying around Franzen, the soft-focus lens is always on him." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Synopsis" by , From the National Book Award-winning author of "The Corrections," a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of the sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.
"Synopsis" by ,
From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics

While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity; and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzens controversial l996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as "the Harper's essay," as well as his award-winning narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

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