Jonathan Franzen’s gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads
It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless—unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate.
Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own.
A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident.
Arizona State University welcomed celebrated novelist Jonathan Franzen as a guest in its TomorrowTalks series. Franzen discussed his book, "Crossroads" in an online event. The conversation was facilitated by ASU fiction writer Matt Bell, a professor of English and author of the cli-fi novel, “Appleseed.”
Jonathan Franzen tells Adam Colman in this episode of the Writers Institute Podcast, “If we lose live book events, I would experience it as a great loss.” He describes here the humor, community, and conversation at those gatherings.
Jonathan Franzen speaks with Kristina Stoltz in Copenhagen, Denmark in September 2022, as part of ther series Arctic Imagination — part of Nordic Bridges and supported by the Nordic Cultural Foundation and the Palaces and Culture Agency.
The American writer Jonathan Franzen is often mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Mann. Franzen has now received the Thomas Mann Prize for his complete works.
Alex Merto, Charlotte Strick, and Jonathan Franzen on a New Look for Old Books