Synopses & Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year The Discomfort Zone is Jonathan Franzens tale of growing up, squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a small and fundamentally ridiculous person,” into an adult with strong inconvenient passions. Whether hes writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafkas fiction on his protracted quest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between bird watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelingly engaged with the world we live in now. The Discomfort Zone is a wise, funny, and gorgeously written self-portrait by one of Americas finest writers. -Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and a collection of essays, How to Be Alone, all published by FSG. He lives in New York City. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year As Jonathan Franzen tells it, he was the king of boy who was afraid of spiders, school dances, urinals, music teachers, boomerangs, popular girlsand his parents. He had nothing against geeky kids except a desperate fear of being taken for one of them, a fate that would result in instant Social Death. Approaching puberty the way a fraud artist confronts a particularly tough scam, he pretended to be a kid who didn't enjoy doing calculations on his new six-function Texas Instruments calculator. The Discomfort Zone is Franzen's intimate memoir of growing up squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person," through a strangely happy adolescence, into an adult with strong and inconvenient passions. His story cascades from moments of high drama into multilayered fields of sometimes truculent, sometimes piercing, always entertaining investigation and insight. Whether he's writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafka's fiction on his own protracted quest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between bird-watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feeling engaged with the world we live in now. His personal history of a Midwestern youth and a New York adulthood is warmed by the same blend of comic scrutiny and affection that characterizes his fiction; the result is a portrait of a unique American heart and mind. "The strong chapters are impossibly articulate and true. And like the born novelist that he is, Franzen keeps operating under the sign of ambivalence. We get both battling personas in The Discomfort Zone: the ironic Easterner and the upright Midwesterner. Long may they prosper!"James Marcus, Los Angeles Times Book Review "The strong chapters are impossibly articulate and true. And like the born novelist that he is, Franzen keeps operating under the sign of ambivalence. We get both battling personas in The Discomfort Zone: the ironic Easterner and the upright Midwesterner. Long may they prosper!"James Marcus, Los Angeles Times Book Review "At once elegiac and unsentimental, mornful and joyful, [The Discomfort Zone] offers the most intimate glimpse into the author's interior life."Dan Cryer, The Boston Globe "[Franzen] takes experiences from his life . . . feeds them through the mixing board of his prodigious insight, and produces some beautiful music."Bob Ivry, The Washington Post "Franzen succeeds most neatly . . . he speaks only too directly to a generation of baby-boomers who live in umcomfortable conflict with the thrifty, hardworking, self-sacrificing values of their parents' generation."Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor "Franzen is most assuredly a fine stylist. There are whole passages of this book that sing with absolutely gorgeous prose, wielded with a magnificent sense of control."John Freeman, The Philadelphia Inquirer "Finely drawn, exquisitely expressed portraits . . . related in typically lyrical Franzen prose . . . readers will be glad they came along."Dale Singer, St. Louis Post Dispatch "An uncommonly well-written memoir. . . Franzen is a beautiful stylist."Heller McAlpin, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review "An intriguing collection of personal essays . . . Franzen is too brilliant to have had a normal childhood."Cheryl Reed, The Chicago Sun-Times "After winning the National Book Award in fiction for The Corrections, Franzen has proven himself to be an exceptionally engaging essayist, first in How to Be Alone and now in this cycle of magnetizing meditations on family and culture, love and death, art and nature. A consummate storyteller, Franzen possesses a low-key, even sheepish sense of humor rooted in his middle-class Midwest upbringing . . . This gratifyingly unpredictable and finely crafted collection ends with a tour de force, 'My Bird Problem,' a thoughtful, wry, and edgy musing on marital bliss and misery, global warming, the wonder of birds, and our halfhearted effort to protect the environment."Donna Seaman, Booklist "In this entertaining portrait of the artist as a young geek, Franzen is as offhand about his geekdom and failures as he is about his talents and successes. He retraces his childhood resistance to his parents' way of life as he became a rebel in his own cause. He confesses that he has become a bird-watcher as an adult; he is like an interesting variety of one of the birds that he enjoys finding. Even while describing his personal oddities and those in the people around him, he finds awkward beauty in their quirks and imperfections. The book begins and ends with the death of his mother. Their difficult relationship is one of many he examines. He is a human watcher willing to report in detail on behavior, whether that of his parents, loved ones, or himself. As he studies who he has been and who he is now, Franzen discovers truths about the world around him. This is a world in which many teens find themselves, and seeing the ways the author navigates and survives can entertain and comfort while offering assistance in the process of self-discovery."Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, California, School Library Journal "National Book Awardwinner Franzen's first foray into memoir begins and ends with his mother's death in Franzen's adulthood. In between, he takes a sarcastic, humorous and intimate look at the painful awkwardness of adolescence. As a young observer rather than a participant, Franzen offers a fresh take on the sometimes tumultuous, sometimes uneventful America of the 1960s and '70s . . . While Franzen's family was unmarked by significant tragedy, the common yet painful contradictions of growing up are at the heart of this wonderful book (parts of which appeared in the New Yorker): "You're miserable and ashamed if you don't believe your adolescent troubles matter, but you're stupid if you do."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Lovely, lyrical, and precise . . . What The Discomfort Zone
resembles, in fact, is an old-fashioned diorama in a museum, displaying the airborne author at each stage of this evolution."--James Marcus, Los Angeles Times
"Funny, masterfully composed . . . For those eagerly awaiting his Corrections follow-up, this will help get you through the night."--Gregory Kirschling, Entertainment Weekly
"Jonathan Franzen's contribution to the genre is so expertly shaped . . . so genuinely, organically thought-provoking, that I wish I could yank it off the shelf where it will inevitably sit with the autobiographical writing of other hip authors."--Adam Begley, The New York Observer
"If it were possible to calculate the frequency of mots justes in a piece of prose, Franzen's ranking would be through the roof."--Lev Grossman, Time
"At once elegiac and unsentimental, mournful and joyful. . . . The most intimate glimpse into the author's interior life."--Dan Cryer, The Boston Globe
"The sub subtext of these essays--that Franzen is Franzen, a flat-out brilliant writer and wickedly incisive observer--strips away much of the self-effacement that coats the
surface."--Arthur Salm, The San Diego Union-Tribune
"A brilliantly talented writer, Franzen is more aware than most Americans of the ironies of individuality and citizenship. There are many moments here that bring together the individual and group experience of being American."--Michael Sims, BookPage
"With comic verve, Franzen lays out his neuroses and his gullibility to the cultural moment he inhabited. He nails the essence of adolescence itself."--Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"For those who admire the razor-sharp jabs Franzen akes at himself and anyone else standing too close, The Discomfort Zone is both a delicious read and a clever showcase for Franzen's talents."--Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor
"Quirky, funny, poignant, self-deprecating, and ultimately wise."--Kirkus Reviews
"Franzen has a talent for seamless transitions and for weaving together multiple lines of thought. . . . About as good a summary as I've read of the times we live in."--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
This book delivers the intimate memoir of Franzens growth from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person," through an excruciating and strangely happy adolescence, and into his adult life with embarrassing and unexpected passions.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year The Discomfort Zone is Jonathan Franzens tale of growing up, squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a “small and fundamentally ridiculous person,” into an adult with strong inconvenient passions. Whether hes writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafkas fiction on his protracted quest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between bird watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelingly engaged with the world we live in now. The Discomfort Zone is a wise, funny, and gorgeously written self-portrait by one of Americas finest writers.
Aand#160; collection of timely essaysand#160;writtenand#160;over the last ten years by Umberto Eco, internationally acclaimed and best-selling author.
andldquo;Underscores the writerandrsquo;s profound erudition, lively wit, and passion for ideas of all shapes and sizes . . . Ecoandrsquo;s pleasure in such explorations is obvious and contagious.andrdquo; andmdash; Booklist
Inventing the Enemy covers a wide range of topics on which Eco has written and lectured over the past ten years: from a disquisition on the theme that runs through his recent novel The Prague Cemetery andmdash; every country needs an enemy, and if it doesnandrsquo;t have one, must invent it andmdash; to a discussion of ideas that have inspired his earlier novels (and in the process he takes us on an exploration of lost islands, mythical realms, and the medieval world); from indignant reviews of James Joyceandrsquo;s Ulysses by fascist journalists of the 1920s and 1930s, to an examination of Saint Thomas Aquinasandrsquo;s notions about the soul of an unborn child, to censorship and violence and WikiLeaks.
These are essays full of passion, curiosity, and obsession by one of the worldandrsquo;s most esteemed scholars and critically acclaimed, best-selling novelists.
andldquo;True wit and wisdom coexist with fierce scholarship inside Umberto Eco, a writer who actually knows a thing or two about being truly human.andrdquo; andmdash; Buffalo News
andquot;Thought provoking . . . nuanced . . . the collection amply shows off Eco's sophisticated, agile mind.andquot; andmdash; Publishers Weekly
About the Author
UMBERTO ECO was born in Alessandria, Italy in 1932. He is the author of five novels and numerous collections of essays. A semiotician, philosopher, medievalist, and for many years a professor at the University of Bologna, Eco is now president of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici there. He has received Italyand#39;s highest literary award, the Premio Strega, has been named a Chevalier de la Landeacute;gion dand#39;Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Milan.