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Jonathan Franzen


Jonathan Franzen was born in Western Springs, Illinois in 1959 and grew up in a suburb of St Louis, the locale of his first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City. He graduated from Swarthmore and then studied in Berlin. To support his wife and himself while writing The Twenty-Seventh City, he worked in a seismology laboratory at Harvard. In 1996, Granta included him in their list of the Best American Novelists under 40. Franzen came late to the mega-novel phenomenon and it remains to be seen whether he can keep it going. Pissing off Oprah Winfrey might not have been the way to do it. But then, there again, it might.

When Freedom came out, Time magazine put Franzen on its front cover and declared him the Great American Novelist. It declared him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, though at least they had the decency to also put Jennifer Egan on the list. However, they made Freedom their best fiction book of the year. This raised a storm on the gender issue. Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle’s fiction prize, the L. A. Times first reported it not as though Egan won but as though Jonathan Franzen lost it. Some bloggers rightly pointed out that this was blatantly sexist. The Guardian compared the reception of Freedom to the reception of Allegra Goodman’s The Cookbook Collector. Other commentators took up the sexism issue. And others declared Freedom to be overrated. In short, has Franzen been crowned the Great American Novelist because he is the Great American Novelist or because he is male? I will probably take this matter up on my blog but the short answer is the latter.

Other links

His Facebook page
Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen’s Big Book
Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen and the NEA
Ten rules for writing fiction (scroll down for Franzen)
Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts (commencement speech given by Franzen)
The Oprah-Franzen thing
A Book, an Author, and a Talk Show Host (Some Notes on the Oprah-Franzen Debacle)
Elitism for Everyone
Too Cool for Oprah
‘Oprah’ Gaffe By Franzen Draws Ire And Sales
Winfrey Rescinds Offer to Author for Guest Appearance
Book lovers’ quarrel
Franzen ‘regrets’ Oprah row
O is for the Other Things She Gave Me
The Story of O
Jonathan Franzen’s Story of O (cute! Two different stories with the same title)


1988 The Twenty-Seventh City
1992 Strong Motion
2001 The Corrections
2002 How to be Alone (essays)
2006 The Discomfort Zone (memoir)
2010 Freedom
2012 Farther Away: Essays
2013 The Kraus Project
2015 Purity
2018 The End of the End of the Earth
2021 What If We Stopped Pretending
2021 Crossroads (novel)