The End of the End of the Earth (2018)

Essays

A sharp and provocative new essay collection from the award-winning author of Freedom and The Corrections

The essayist, Jonathan Franzen writes, is like “a fire-fighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames of shame, is to run straight into them.” For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second life as a risk-taking essayist. Now, at a moment when technology has inflamed tribal hatreds and the planet is beset by unnatural calamities, he is back with a new collection of essays that recall us to more humane ways of being in the world.

Franzen’s great loves are literature and birds, and The End of the End of the Earth is a passionate argument for both. Where the new media tend to confirm one’s prejudices, he writes, literature “invites you to ask whether you might be somewhat wrong, maybe even entirely wrong, and to imagine why someone else might hate you.” Whatever his subject, Franzen’s essays are always skeptical of received opinion, steeped in irony, and frank about his own failings. He’s frank about birds, too (they kill “everything imaginable”), but his reporting and reflections on them—on seabirds in New Zealand, warblers in East Africa, penguins in Antarctica—are both a moving celebration of their beauty and resilience and a call to action to save what we love.

Calm, poignant, carefully argued, full of wit, The End of the End of the Earth provides a welcome breath of hope and reason.

Purity (2015)

A Novel

A magnum opus for our morally complex times, from The New York Times Bestselling author of Freedom

Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother—her only family—is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she’ll ever have a normal life. It takes a seemingly chance encounter with two visitors from Germany to send Pip—and the reader—on a journey of discovery that ranges from Stasi-era East Berlin to a rainforest in Bolivia; and from the ancient war between the sexes to the present-day bewilderments of the Internet. Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder—the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.

The Kraus Project (2013)

Essays by Karl Kraus

A Great American Writer’s Confrontation With a Great European Critic-A Personal and Intellectual Awakening

A hundred years ago, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was among the most penetrating and prophetic writers in Europe: a relentless critic of the popular media’s manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of technology and consumerism, and the jingoistic rhetoric of a fading empire. But even though his followers included Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained something of a lonely prophet, and few people today are familiar with his work. Thankfully, Jonathan Franzen is one of them.

In The Kraus Project, Franzen not only presents his definitive new translations of Kraus but also annotates them spectacularly, with supplementary notes from the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter and the Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann. Kraus was a notoriously cantankerous and difficult author, and in Franzen he has found his match: a novelist unafraid to voice unpopular opinions strongly, a critic capable of untangling Kraus’s often dense arguments to reveal their relevance to contemporary America. Interwoven with Franzen’s survey of today’s cultural and technological landscape is an intensely personal recollection of the author’s first year out of college, when he fell in love with Kraus.

Painstakingly wrought, strikingly original in form, The Kraus Project is a feast of thought, passion, and literature.

Farther Away (2012)

Essays

In this incisive collection of speeches and essays, Jonathan Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recalling his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his feelings about the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace, or offering a moving and witty take on the ways that technology has changed how people express their love, these pieces deliver on Franzen’s implicit promise to conceal nothing. A remarkable and revelatory work from one of our greatest living novelists, Farther Away traces the progress of a unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day.

Freedom (2010)

A Novel

#1 National Bestseller, Winner of the John Gardner Fiction Award, A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Walter and Patty Berglund as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

The Discomfort Zone (2006)

A Personal History

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

The Discomfort Zone is Jonathan Franzen’s tale of growing up, squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a “small and fundamentally ridiculous person,” into an adult with strong inconvenient passions. Whether he’s writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafka’s fiction on his protracted quest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between bird watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelingly engaged with the world we live in now. The Discomfort Zone is a wise, funny, and gorgeously written self-portrait by one of America’s finest writers.

How to Be Alone (2002)

Essays

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics

While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen’s writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity; and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzen’s controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as “the Harper’s essay,” as well as his award-winning narrative of his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

The Corrections (2001)

A Novel

Winner of the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Strong Motion (1992)

A Novel

Louis Holland, an angry young prisoner of the 1990s, begins work at a Boston radio station in a spring of strange happenings—anti-abortion activists descend on the city just as it is hit with a series of freak earthquakes. One of the earthquake victims is Louis’s own grandmother, and the ensuing feud over her estate draws him toward Renee Seitchek, an intense and lonely Harvard seismologist. Renee’s investigation into the earthquakes implicates Louis’s family in an environmental scandal that goes back decades. When he and Renee fall for each other, hard, they’re thrown into a mess of headlong sex and family strife. Jonathan Franzen summons the forces of love and comedy, corporate crime and computer science, ecological disaster and Evangelical Christianity, to bring us a novel of painful beauty and insight. Strong Motion is a story of the end of the American century from our most honest observer of the American scene.

The Twenty-Seventh City (1988)

A Novel

25th Anniversary Edition, Picador Modern Classics

Published in 1988, Jonathan Franzen’s The Twenty-Seventh City is the debut novel of a writer who would come to define our times.

St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city’s leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. Set in the mid-1980s, The Twenty-Seventh City predicts every unsettling shift in American life for the next two decades: suburban malaise, surveillance culture, domestic terrorism, paranoia. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American Dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy.