Posts tagged "Jonathan Franzen"

Is Contemporary Literature Post-Christian?

Is Contemporary Literature Post-Christian?

An essay in last week’s NYTimes written by Paul Elie grabbed my attention, prodded me in the gut, and provoked some mixed reactions on my behalf. Written with a sensitivity to the oft-referenced ‘post-Christian society,’ Elie surmises that contemporary American fiction lacks the believer: “In American fiction, belief is like that. Belief as upbringing, belief as social fact, belief as a species of American weirdness: our literary fiction has all of these things. All that is missing is the believer.”

His argument and epistolatory tone largely stem from an understanding that a large swath of American literature has been overtly rooted in…

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Jonathan Franzen on Influence, Connection, and Kafka (not to mention Intimacy, Control and David Foster Wallace)

Jonathan Franzen on Influence, Connection, and Kafka (not to mention Intimacy, Control and David Foster Wallace)

Piggybacking off of Ethan’s wonderful post on The Art of Fielding, here are two phenomenal quotes from Jonathan Franzen’s recent collection of non-fiction, Farther Away. The first comes from a lecture he gave “On Autobiographical Fiction” in which he tackles the four questions writers dread most, the first of which is the question of influences:

It would be somewhat more meaningful to say that I was influenced by Franz Kafka. By this I mean that it was Kafka’s novel The Trial, as taught by the best literature professor I ever had, that opened my eyes to the greatness of what literature can…

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Another Week Ends: Blue Like Jazz, Youth Ministry, Franzen, Facebook, and Harvard Grads

Another Week Ends: Blue Like Jazz, Youth Ministry, Franzen, Facebook, and Harvard Grads

Filling in for DZ this week as the Mockingbird Conference is now in full swing!

1. Our very own Cameron Cole wrote a wonderful piece on youth ministry over at The Gospel Coalition, highlighting its strong tendency toward legalism and making a plea for a gospel-centered youth ministry.

Wanting validation for their tireless labor, youth ministers occasionally focus on behavior modification as a means of providing tangible proof of the efficacy of their ministry. A kid carrying his or her Bible to school, signing a chastity pledge, or sporting a WWJD bracelet may appear like signs of spiritual progress—the fruit of…

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Everything That Is Deep Loves the Mask: Jonathan Franzen in The Paris Review

Everything That Is Deep Loves the Mask: Jonathan Franzen in The Paris Review

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of author Jonathan Franzen’s recent interviews. He not only advocates consistently and compassionately for a “somewhat more tragic view” of human nature, he puts the toxicity of the American growth imperative into words. So how I missed his lengthy discussion with The Paris Review following the release of Freedom last year beats me. Franzen speaks at length about his process and evolution, about the task of the novelist, about growing up, and most significantly, about the “maskless self.”

People tend to criticize Franzen for what they perceive as his self-involvement and/or superiority, claiming that…

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Franzen on Technological Grace, The Dangers of Liking and the Cost of Loving

Franzen on Technological Grace, The Dangers of Liking and the Cost of Loving

So what is it about Kenyon College that inspires such great commencement speeches?! Maybe it’s the creative residue that Bill Watterson left behind at his alma mater (or John Zahl for that matter). Whatever the case, Jonathan Franzen followed in his friend and colleague David Foster Wallace’s steps and delivered this year’s address, an essayified version of which appeared in The NY Times last week. Franzen took the opportunity to rhapsodize on a number of our favorite subjects: human narcissism in relation to technology, the promise & power & problem of l-o-v-e, and inspiring call of (mocking)birds. At one point…

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The Screwtaping of David Foster Wallace – According to Jonathan Franzen

The Screwtaping of David Foster Wallace – According to Jonathan Franzen

via The New Yorker

An absolute must-read from the April 18th issue of The New Yorker, Jonathan Franzen’s devastating essay “Farther Away,” detailing his retreat to the ultra-remote South Pacific island of Masafuera in hopes of recovering from the grueling period of Freedom-related work, maybe catching a glimpse of an extremely rare bird, as well as depositing some of his late colleague and friend David Foster Wallace’s ashes. He uses the trip as an opportunity to read Robinson Crusoe and reflect on the nature of isolation, both individually and artistically. About two-thirds of the way through, he launches into a meditation…

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Patty Berglund Breaks Down (Twice)

Patty Berglund Breaks Down (Twice)

The third inner-crisis moment in our series happens to be the first of several that Patty Berglund, wife of Walter and mother of Joey, undergoes in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom:

“Due perhaps to the nicotine, she spent the entire night sleeplessly replaying the evening in her head, trying to do as [her soon-to-be husband Walter's best friend] Richard had demanded and get her thoughts straight. But it was an odd mental kabuki, because even as she was circling around and around the question of what kind of person she was and what her life was ultimately going to look like, one fat…

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Walter Berglund Breaks Down

Walter Berglund Breaks Down

The second in a series of three stirring crisis moments in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. This one occurs just after activist/father/married man Walter Berglund has confessed his love for his much younger assistant Lalitha (and she for him). A fiercely principled man, the moment of weakness is the long-time-coming chink in the armor of self-righteousness and liberal virtue that has gradually walled him off from his loved ones. It’s an instance of idealism finally succumbing to reality, an honest-to-God transgression that sets off an avalanche of suppressed feeling:

He let the phone slip from his hand and lay crying for a while,…

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Joey Berglund Breaks Down

Joey Berglund Breaks Down

The powerful bottoming-out moment of young Joey Berglund, one of the protagonists in Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom, who has just eloped with his girlfriend Connie after miraculously pulling off a lucrative but pretty underhanded deal to provide the US military with shoddy parts for some Cold War trucks they were using in Iraq:

The depression that for years had stalked the women nearest him seemed finally to have identified its rightful prey and sunk its teeth in him. The one thing he knew he absolutely had to do, which was to tell his family that he’d married Connie, he could…

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Brooks on Franzen, Tolstoy, and Quiet Desperation

Brooks on Franzen, Tolstoy, and Quiet Desperation

Having just cracked Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, I find myself enjoying it immensely. The characterizations are just so darn funny, the diagnostic thrust so piercing and the prose so delightful. Perhaps, then, I should have avoided David Brooks’ editorial from yesterday about the book. It’s admiring but also pretty qualified, some excerpts of which are worth reprinting:

Very few novels make clear and provocative arguments about American life anymore, but Jonathan Franzen’s important new book, “Freedom,” makes at least two. First, he argues that American culture is overobsessed with personal freedom. Second, he portrays an America where people are…

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Jonathan Franzen on Growth

Jonathan Franzen on Growth

Pretty phenomenal soundbite from the Freedom author, being interviewed on NPR’s Marketplace: 

“We have this notion in this country, not only of endless economic growth but of endless personal growth. I have a certain characterological antipathy to the notion of we’re all getting better and better all the time. And it’s so clearly belied by our experience. You may get better in certain ways for 10 years, but one day you wake up and although things are a little bit different, they’re not a lot different. And I think if one can get more…

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Another Week Ends: Franzen’s Freedom, Strippers at Church, Hairdryers, Gender Jokes, Sufjan and Arcade Fire

Another Week Ends: Franzen’s Freedom, Strippers at Church, Hairdryers, Gender Jokes, Sufjan and Arcade Fire

1. The reviews for Freedom, Jonathan Franzen’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2001’s The Corrections, are in, and terms like “America’s Greatest Novelist” are once again being thrown around, with the decline of the novel itself being re-evaluated as well. Personally, I love Franzen’s work, especially his essays (he’s got a great one about his involvement in youth ministry growing up) and will be first in line on the 31st. Time Magazine has gone so far as to put him on their cover, the first time they’ve done so with a living novelist in ten years. Their profile is only moderately interesting,…

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