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Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs, 20 July 2006

... of Fingersmith’. But sometimes a writer’s own work just isn’t enough: the proof copy of Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance, due from Picador in September, carries an assurance that the novel will appeal to readers of Jonathan Franzen and Ian McEwan. Wow. McEwan’s name has become something of a hallmark: even ...

From Wooden to Plastic

James Meek: Jonathan Franzen, 23 September 2015

Purity 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 563 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 00 753276 6
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... Jonathan Franzen​ has been compared to 19th-century greats: to Tolstoy, to Dickens. In respect of his best and most successful book, The Corrections, the praise carries a false hint of the retrograde, of revival of old forms or subject matter. Published at the turn of the millennium, The Corrections is a work of its time, not for its topical themes of dementia, the medicated society or stock market chicanery but for its approach to family ...

Ink-Dot Eyes

Wyatt Mason: Jonathan Franzen, 2 August 2007

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Harper Perennial, 195 pp., £8.99, July 2007, 978 0 00 723425 7
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... an obscene self-congratulation for the virtue required to see your mistake and own up to it?’ Jonathan Franzen’s memoir, The Discomfort Zone, is an object lesson in the management of such obscenity. The book begins with a loss. After lengthy treatment for colon cancer, his widowed mother, Irene, has died. The youngest of three brothers who’ve ...

So long, Lalitha

James Lever: Franzen’s Soap Opera, 7 October 2010

Freedom 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 562 pp., £20, September 2010, 978 0 00 726975 4
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... Jonathan Franzen has in the past been a writer who has flourished in sequences and streaks, in set-pieces and sections, the kinds of book of which you could ask: ‘What are your favourite tracks?’ The Corrections’ war of attrition between Caroline and Gary Lambert is a breathtakingly good sequence – but Gary remains the most underpowered character in the novel ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Hatchet Jobs, 11 September 2003

... fiction arriving at the LRB on the cover of which it is proudly emblazoned that, in the opinion of Jonathan Franzen (for example), this book marks the arrival of a remarkable/distinctive/unique/major new voice. Most of them don’t. The praise of a critic who doles out only praise is worth less than the praise of a critic who is sometimes prepared to find ...

No Cleaning, No Cooking

Richard Beck: Nell Zink, 15 July 2015

‘The Wallcreeper’ and ‘Mislaid’ 
by Nell Zink.
Fourth Estate, 168 pp. and 288 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 0 00 813960 5
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... to draw deeper meaning. Zink reportedly wrote The Wallcreeper in three weeks, for the amusement of Jonathan Franzen, with whom she had struck up a strange, happy email correspondence after writing to him to recommend the work of a German ornithologist. It soon emerged that she had been writing for years, so she sent him Sailing towards the Sunset by Avner ...

Reconstruction

Christopher Beha: Jeffrey Eugenides, 6 October 2011

The Marriage Plot 
by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Fourth Estate, 406 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 00 744129 7
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... the modernist and postmodernist masters, these writers – among them Eugenides’s contemporary Jonathan Franzen and a younger cohort that includes Zadie Smith and Dave Eggers – have come to believe that too much was lost – in moral and emotional engagement, in readership – when realism was thrown over. As ...

Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... than a little to Pynchon’s work; and in a recent essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen declares Pynchon a personal hero. David Foster Wallace moves beyond admiration to adulation – if not, to put it more plainly, outright imitation. It is, in fact, a virtuoso performance that has eclipsed its progenitor: Wallace out-Pynchons ...

Everything Must Go!

Andrew O’Hagan: American Beauties, 13 December 2001

The Corrections 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 568 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 1 84115 672 8
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Ghost World 
directed by Terry Zwigoff.
August 2001
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Storytelling 
directed by Todd Solondz.
November 2001
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... some would argue, and might be right to argue, that 11 September was a consequence of this. Jonathan Franzen’s new novel is a concatenation of dead afternoons, the kinds of afternoon that will constitute the life, or lives, of a Midwestern family, the Lamberts, who live in times not unadjacent to now. For sure, they are the scions and the debris ...

No one hates him more

Joshua Cohen: Franzen on Kraus, 7 November 2013

The Kraus Project 
by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 318 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 0 00 751743 5
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... resurrects a writer who would have hated him? Until a word is coined, I’m going to go with ‘Franzen’ – after the most famous American novelist of the moment, whose commercial and critical success has brought him, if his public statements are any indication, nothing but misery. His new book, The Kraus Project, returns him to the early 1980s, before ...

So-so Skinny Latte

James Francken: Giles Foden’s Zanzibar, 19 September 2002

Zanzibar 
by Giles Foden.
Faber, 389 pp., £12.99, September 2002, 0 571 20512 7
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... published a week before the terrorist attacks, became a runaway bestseller, and the case against Jonathan Franzen and his kind of big social novel did not look so watertight. There may be something too wised-up about these novels, but interest in large-scale fiction has not fallen off after the attacks. Writers quickly settled back into familiar ...

Who’s under the desk?

Siddhartha Deb: James Lasdun’s Novel, 7 March 2002

The Horned Man 
by James Lasdun.
Cape, 195 pp., £10.99, February 2002, 0 224 06217 4
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... degrees of insight by writers as different as Francine Prose, Philip Roth, James Hynes and even Jonathan Franzen in the opening pages of The Corrections. The Horned Man, however, is concerned with the campus only up to a point: its world is not self-enclosed, and can hardly be so, set as the college is in a decaying suburbia connected by the Metrorail ...

Megasuperwarlords

Benjamin Markovits: Mark Costello, 5 August 2004

Big If 
by Mark Costello.
Atlantic, 315 pp., £10.99, February 2004, 9781843542179
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... deluded. A moral view of humanity simply offers less accurate models for predicting behaviour. Jonathan Franzen has praised the book for staking out ‘territory which, until his arrival, you would never have guessed it was vital to read about’. Orwell wrote that ‘Dickens sees human beings with the most intense vividness, but sees them always in ...

Following the Fall-Out

Alexander Star: Rick Moody, 19 March 1998

Purple America 
by Rick Moody.
Flamingo, 298 pp., £16.99, March 1998, 0 00 225687 8
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... to warn of a ‘leakage of waste water’ from the local power plant. Like David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen and many other young novelists, Moody yokes together a number of apparently disparate elements: an intimacy with the politics of popular culture, a fascination with bizarre, paranoid visions, a feel for family detail. He may be the most ...

Everybody knows

Christina Gombar: Kate Jennings, 22 August 2002

Moral Hazard 
by Kate Jennings.
Fourth Estate, 180 pp., £10, April 2002, 1 84115 737 6
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... facts, dwelling distractingly on the lifestyles of the rich at the expense of their inner life. Jonathan Franzen does something similar in The Corrections, where the thoughts of an investment banker are rendered in the voice of a disaffected New York fiction writer. Jennings, on the other hand, actually worked as a speechwriter for two large downtown ...

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