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How to be Alone, Jonathan Franzen


I’ve heard he was the second coming (or third, or fourth) for years and now, yes, I have seen the light. I’m a believer, I’m a devotee, and will scour my friendly neighborhood library for all books Franzen as soon as my laundry list of other books I have on hold are read. This, I make my promise. A series of essays that are so indicative of who we are as human beings, I had to soak in each word, sometimes, reading passages out loud, just so my mind could take in the words of a writer with this extreme talent of the English language. I don’t want to tell you much about the passages because I feel you need to experience this book for yourself. Yes, a few stories are not all that engrossing, but the others make up for it tenfold. That is one gift of short stories, the commitment doesn’t have to be full-in for the entire ride. Okay, here are some, I must…. “I wonder if our current cultural susceptibility to the charms of materialism- our increasing willingness to see psychology as chemical, identity as genetic, and behavior as the product of bygone exigencies of human evolution- isn’t intimately related to the postmodern resurgence of the oral and the eclipse of the written…”. “As the social stigma of depression dwindles, the aesthetic stigma increases. It’s not just that depression has become fashionable to the point of banality. It’s the sense that we live in a reductively binary culture: you’re either healthy or you’re sick, you either function or you don’t.” On the growing of technology driven society in 1995.. “It’s more than a matter of cultural references; it’s the very texture of our lives. And if a novel depends on the realization of complex characters against a background of a larger society, how do you write one form the background is indistinguishable from the foreground?”.Franzens’ experience with an Oprah Book of the Month taping that had him revisting his childhood neighborhood in St. Louis is complete brilliance. That story alone is worth you checking out this book. My Father’s Brain; Imperial Bedroom, Why Bother?; The Reader in Exile; Meet Me in St. Louis; Inauguration Day, January 2001… read these very slowly, breath deeply, and enjoy.

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