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 essaysthat Franzen is Franzen, a flat-out brilliant writer and wickedly incisive observerstrips 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
National Book Award-winner 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. A not very popular, bookish kid, Franzen (The Corrections) and his high school buddies, in one of the book's most memorable episodes, attempt to loop a tire, ring-toss-style, over their school's 40-foot flag pole as part of a series of flailing pranks. Franzen watches his older brother storm out of the house toward a wayward hippe life, while he ultimately follows along his father's straight-and-narrow path. Franzen traces back to his teenage years the roots of his enduring trouble with women, his pursuit of a precarious career as a writer and his recent life-affirming obsession with bird-watching. 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." (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In this collection of six long essays, Franzen, the author of The Corrections (the most-written-about novel of 2001 and the winner of that year's National Book Award for fiction) and two other novels and an essay collection, focuses on himself: growing up in Webster Groves, MO (a suburb of St. Louis); family matters; love and loss; and the forces that made him. Here, the personal is also the political; nowhere is this made clearer than in the last essay, where Franzen paces out some wandering, but wonderful, pathways between his environmental consciousness, his love relationships, and the real plight of wild birds. Franzen is extremely funny, winning, and not incidentally an astute social commentator. As in his previous work, the style here is energetic and engaged; many ideas are woven together, not often quickly or easily; this is not for lazy readers. A possible choice for nonfiction book clubs; strongly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/06.]-Terren Ilana Wein, Univ. of Chicago Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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 MarstonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Novelist Franzen (The Corrections, 2001, etc.) displays his mastery of nonfiction in this compact, affecting memoir, which begins with the aftermath of his mother's death and ends with a quiet epiphany about love. Today's many autobiographers could learn a lot from Franzen about focus and about the immense significance of the littlest things. He sees the relevance of almost everything-though it sometimes takes him decades. Rather than a traditional story beginning with birth and ending with the present, Franzen offers six segments that together form a rough chronology. Each could stand alone but gains great power from its juxtaposition with the others. When the author appears to be drifting away from the narrative, he is instead inviting us along on a detour that often turns out to be a shortcut to surprise through some troubled terrain. We meet and grow to care deeply for his conventional, sometimes procrustean parents and his older brothers in suburban Webster Groves, Mo. We squirm as he tells us about his geeky boyhood, compulsively reading Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and his awkward adolescence. An early section on Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl reveals its importance 100 pages later. We read about church camp and high-school pranks, including repeated attempts by Franzen and his friends to get an automobile tire over the school's flagpole. We learn why he majored in German in college and why he greatly admired a professor almost everyone else despised. We see the enduring conflict between man and boy that rages within him even now. He relates painful, protracted tales of his sexual awakenings and rejections; he grieves about his failed marriage. He explores what heat first thinks is his odd affinity for birds. Only rarely does he talk specifically about his emergence as a writer, but it's all there, right in front of you. Quirky, funny, poignant, self-deprecating and ultimately wise.