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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 ...

Sex with Satan

Deborah Friedell, 21 October 2021

by Jonathan Franzen.
Fourth Estate, 592 pp., £20, October, 978 0 00 830889 6
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... What​ would the young Jonathan Franzen – an acolyte of Gaddis and Pynchon who identified with Kafka – make of the novels he would go on to write? That man was determined that ‘Franzen’ should connote ‘high art’, his own portmanteau of ‘high modern’ and ‘art fiction ...

From Wooden to Plastic

James Meek: Jonathan Franzen, 24 September 2015

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

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 ...


Joe Dunthorne: Real Me and Fake Me, 10 February 2022

... up and blocked me.I took reassurance from the fact that this sort of thing happens all the time. Jonathan Franzen is impersonated so often he has saved on his desktop a picture of himself holding a sign that says ‘I’m not on Twitter.’ He periodically emails this to the relevant authorities who, presumably, take prompt action. Which is all very ...

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 ...

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 ...

No Cleaning, No Cooking

Richard Beck: Nell Zink, 16 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 ...

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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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 ...


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 ...

So-so Skinny Latte

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

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 ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW, 11 October 2012

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... and most pleasurable of Wallace’s books of fiction. In a 1995 letter to DeLillo, with whom Jonathan Franzen had put him in touch because Wallace was concerned that a passage in Infinite Jest about tennis and nuclear war might be perceived as plagiarism of a similar riff on football in DeLillo’s End Zone, Wallace complained that writing had ...

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