Reading a Jonathan Franzen novel makes a voyeur out of everyone. You get a bird’s eye view of a dysfunctional-yet-loving family, and you get to see them mess up. Repeatedly. The parents make parenting mistakes, the kids squander opportunities and ignore their parents, disconnections widen, and alliances shift. In many ways, Franzen’s stories are incredibly ambitious; he covers lifetimes of bad decisions and turns a critical eye towards capitalism, fraud, and selfishness. He portrays the struggle of families trying to keep up appearances while everything around them is falling apart. But in another way, Franzen’s stories are variations on a very familiar narrative of the unhappy family. It’s his writing style that elevates this pedestrian storyline to something more.
Here are a few things that make Jonathan Franzen’s work so fascinating to me:
Continue reading “My Recent Jonathan Franzen Obsession: Thoughts on Farther Away, The Corrections, and Freedom”
Never use the word “then” as a conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page. – Jonathan Franzen in his “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.” For more about Franzen’s opinion on diction, read his essay “Comma-Then” … Continue reading The Worst Conjunction Ever
One of my writing professors once said that every story was a coming of age story– that there was really no other story that could be told. I think she was right. Even if a story isn’t about coming of age in the traditional sense, it is about learning, developing, and adapting. A coming of … Continue reading 4 Books for 20-Somethings Who Are Trying to Figure Things Out
Three summers ago, novelist Jonathan Franzen was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. One of the things I will never forget from the feature article on Franzen, written by Lev Grossman and published on August 12, 2010, is when Franzen mentions what he did with his computer. Grossman writes: Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious … Continue reading Finding Focus Day 1: Jonathan Franzen’s Computer