For this month we are reading the essays of Jonathan Franzen. We will all be reading the essay “My Father’s Brain.” Then read any of his other essays that you choose. Come prepared to share with the others what other essays you read and what you thought. Below is from Amazon’s description of the collection of essays, How to be Alone.
“In publishing circles, confessions of self doubt are widely referred to as `whining’-the idea being that cultural complaint is pathetic and self-serving in writers who don’t sell, ungracious in writers who do.” This quote, taken from his Harper’s essay “Perchance to Dream,” and later reworked for this collection as “Why Bother,” was written before Franzen tasted huge success with his bestselling novel The Corrections. Fans of that work will be intrigued by the elements from Franzen’s personal life that run parallel to those of the characters in The Corrections. However, Franzen’s adroit cultural criticism, albeit a personal one, is the root of this collection of essays. Hearing such subjective work read by the author himself adds an air of authenticity. It also satisfies a curiosity as to what that voice actually sounds like. This audiobook’s editors satisfy that curiosity, but also make the wise choice of not letting Franzen read the entire collection. While his reading is sincere, his delivery, unlike his text, is passionless and dry. Fortunately, the lion’s share of the essays is read with much more moxie by James. He gives these intelligent, thoughtful and provocative pieces more dramatic punch than Franzen can.
We will meet again on Tuesday evening, November 10th at 8:30 pm. Bring something delicious to share. Hope to see you all then.
Also, remember that we are also reading Robert Pinsky’s translation of Homer’s Illiad. We will discuss it in January, so you have time to chip away at it. It is really good.