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How We Assembled Indiespensable #21

When The Corrections came out in 2001, Jonathan Franzen was lauded for writing the literary phenomenon of the decade. Almost 10 years passed without another novel.

Then, early this summer, we received advanced reading copies of Freedom. We tried not to get our hopes up. The Corrections had won the National Book Award, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and even caught the mighty Oprah's attention. But, lightning rarely strikes twice — topping an incredibly well-received work of fiction seldom yields the desired result.

It turns out we shouldn't have worried. Freedom is a jaw-dropping feat of literature.

Jill says:

Franzen has surpassed the achievements of The Corrections. Freedom examines every major theme in American life — politics, class, work, culture, and sex, to name a few — through the lens of one stubborn, fascinating, wholly believable family. The best novel yet this year.

Hype or no hype, we love this book for what it is: a tremendously well-executed novel.

Speaking of mesmerizing displays of literary aptitude, we're also completely smitten with Skippy Dies, the new novel from Irish writer Paul Murray, which we predict will find its way onto many best-of-the-year lists. Murray's novel, a Man Booker long-list finalist, reminds us more than a little bit of our featured title. The Times of London raves:

[B]rimful of wit, narrative energy and a real poetry and vision....Paul Murray proves that he can conjure up a whole psychic world, from its darkest, most savagely funny cruelty to its wildest flights of fantasy-fuelled innocence.

We're pleased to present you with "Hopeland," part 1 of Skippy Dies. And since we're not cruel, we're offering the entire book at a 30% discount, in honor of its inclusion in this installment. (Editor's note: We also caught up with Paul Murray for an interview, which you can read here.)

Finally, we've been looking for a reason to include Stumptown coffee since we started Indiespensable. This month the logic went something like, "It's almost fall. The leaves are turning colors. Coffee beans grow on trees. Let's send our subscribers some Stumptown coffee!"

A Portland staple for years, this independent roaster is spreading its wings, opening up shops in New York and Amsterdam and wholesaling its expertly crafted coffee to respectable brew outlets around the world. Once you go Stumptown, you never go back. Think about that while you bury your noses in the bag, savoring the aroma of your Direct Trade House Blend beans.

There. You now possess the material for hours of literary gratification, plus the java power to stay up all night absorbing it.

Sincerely,

The Indiespensable Team

÷ ÷ ÷

A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to indiespensable@powells.com. (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)


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