- Hard to believe it's been nearly ten years since Jonathan Franzen made a splash with his novel The Corrections. I don't have a clue how well it has held up (one problem with socially relevant novels is they date fast), but at the time it was nearly impossible to board a city bus without seeing someone reading a copy.
Franzen isn't the richest or most famous living American novelist, but you could argue — I would argue — that he is the most ambitious and also one of the best. His third book, The Corrections, published in 2001, was the literary phenomenon of the decade. His fourth novel, Freedom, will arrive at the end of August. Like The Corrections, it's the story of an American family, told with extraordinary power and richness.
The trend in fiction over the past decade has been toward specialization: the closeup, the miniature, the microcosm. After the literary megafauna of the 1990s — like Infinite Jest, by Franzen's close friend, the late David Foster Wallace — the novels of the aughts embraced quirkiness and uniqueness. Franzen skipped that trend. He remains a devotee of the wide shot, the all-embracing, way-we-live-now novel.
Online Bonus: Franzen's Bookshelf offers his take on five novels that recently inspired him.
Even before it hits stores, Franzen's novel has already been optioned for film by Scott Rudin, the producer of Wonder Boys and The Hours. (Don't rush to buy your popcorn and soda yet; Rudin also bought the rights for The Corrections, and that film remains unproduced.)
Perhaps best of all, Freedom will be the next edition of Powell's Indiespensable book club! Subscribers will get a signed first edition of the novel in a slipcase custom designed exclusively for Indiespensable — plus, an exclusive printing of part 1 of Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies and other goodies!
Quantities are limited, so don't hesitate — sign up now! Nope, too late. Just kidding (maybe). Go, go, go!!
- I don't want to turn this whole post into a "can't believe how time flies" lament, but I really can't believe it's been 10 years since Powell's employees joined the ILWU Local 5 — making Powell's Books "one of the few bookstores in the country with a unionized workforce," according to this article in the Portland Mercury (which includes an interview with union board President Ryan Van Winkle).
On Friday, August 27th, the union is celebrating the occasion with a "Rock Out to Walk Out" fundraiser at the Ace Hotel with performances by bands comprised of union members. Plus, you can buy a CD called "The Little Red Album" and a special issue of the lit-journal The Ne'er-Do-Well featuring stories, essays, and even a comic from writers like Willy Vlautin, Suzanne Burns, Kevin Sampsell, and several Powell's employees.
- Ray Bradbury is turning 90, and Los Angeles is celebrating with a week-long party! (It includes a duo interview with Bradbury and Hugh Hefner on August 24th — presumably in their pajamas and robes.) Get all the details here.
- Another birthday milestone for relative whippersnapper Green Eggs and Ham! Dr. Seuss's immortal classic turns 50.
- The New York Times reports, "War broke out over control of Barnes & Noble on Thursday." Unfortunately, the actual details are just a report of board room shenanigans, nothing involving gunfire or mortar shells. Still, everyone loves a good fight.
- A possible sign of what newspapers may become: "News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch is embarking on an ambitious plan for a new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content for tablet computers such as Apple Inc.'s iPad and mobile phones." It would be nice if the new incarnation didn't involve evil right-wing billionaires like Murdoch.
- The wills of the future will have to include a clause about what to do with your social media, like Facebook and Twitter. Until that day, Techland has some interesting info on what happens to your Twitter account when you pass on to the great social network in the sky.
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Chris Bolton co-created the all-ages webcomic Smash, which will soon be published by Candlewick Press, and created the comedy series Wage Slaves. His short story "The Red Room" was published in Portland Noir from Akashic Books.
Books mentioned in this post