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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (941 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Franzen Narrator: Jonathan Franzen, Scott Shepherd Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was the runaway most-discussed novel of 2010, an ambitious and searching engagement with life in America in the twenty-first century. In The New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus proclaimed it “a masterpiece of American fiction” and lauded its illumination, “through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, [of] the world we thought we knew.” 

In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recounting his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his mixed 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. On a trip to China to see first-hand the environmental devastation there, he doesn’t omit mention of his excitement and awe at the pace of China’s economic development; the trip becomes a journey out of his own prejudice and moral condemnation. Taken together, these essays trace the progress of unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day. Farther Away is remarkable, provocative, and necessary.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Franzen’s] new collection takes the reader on a closely guided tour of his private concerns…Franzen rewards the reader with extended meditations on common phenomena we might otherwise consider unremarkable…The observations [he] makes regarding subjects like cell phone etiquette, the ever-evolving face of modern love and technology are trenchant…With Farther Away, Mr. Franzen demonstrates his ability to dissect the kinds of quotidian concerns that so often evade scrutiny.”

    New York Observer

  • “Throughout the book, Franzen suggests that storytelling is a way to interpret and relieve our collective suffering—a vehicle for social connection—and that apathy can be challenged with Molotov cocktails of ‘bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are’…Combining personal history with cultural events and the minutiae of daily life, Franzen evokes Joan Didion’s tone of rigorous self-examination, and [David Foster] Wallace’s wit and philosophical prowess…What emerges are works of literary theory and cultural critique that are ambitious, brooding, and charmingly funny…The essays in Farther Away are rigorous, artful devotions navigating morally complex topics. At the heart of this collection are the ways ‘engagement with something you love compels you to face up to who you really are.’ Collectively, they are a source of authenticity and refuge—a way out of loneliness.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

  • “A multifaceted and revealing collection, Farther Away actually brings the reader closer to the author.”


  • Farther Away is, from beginning to end, a celebration of love: what provokes it and what endangers it, what joys it brings and what terrors it produces…[The essay] “Farther Away” is one of the strangest, most powerful documents of mourning that I’ve ever read. Farther Away reveals a kinder Franzen, a writer who has no truck with sentimentality but is a clear-eyed defender of sentiment…Like the best fiction, Farther Away charts a way out of loneliness.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Smart, incisive prose that finds deeper societal meaning in almost anything.”

    USA Today

  • “This book of essays by Jonathan Franzen covers various subjects but the unifying theme is truthfulness. He stands for lucidity of expression, which is not the same thing as ease. The lesson of Franzen is that honesty and excellence come from blood, sweat, and tears…This is Franzen at his finest…Narcissism must never be confused with love. This is Franzen’s distilled wisdom…He is unflinching about the price of empathy…This is a book for those interested in how to live as well as how to write.”

    Evening Standard (London)

  • “One way or another, the essays in Farther Away are attempts to enlarge the place where literature, and the responsiveness to it, can be preserved.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “It takes great courage to ask the annoying questions that everyone else would prefer to ignore…What is right action, and how does one live a morally justifiable life?…The questions matter almost more than the answers. And Franzen is virtually alone among the crop of American fiction writers of his generation to pose these moral questions to society at large in such a way as to challenge and indict us.”


  • “Franzen’s position in literary debates is by now well staked—engrossing plots and characters are king—and here he maintains his ground with characteristic intelligence and earnestness…But what distinguishes Franzen’s treatment of these matters in Farther Away is the frequency with which he appeals to love…Love now suffuses Franzen’s writing as it hasn’t before, in a manner intertwined with his newly tragicomic outlook. As the world outside of Franzen’s window grows grimmer—as America’s politics become more dysfunctional, digitization more irrevocable, humanity’s adverse effects on the planet more profound—his writing has increasingly located salvation in turning to the worthiest thing you can find and loving the hell out of it…Farther Away is a reminder not only of Franzen’s greatness as a sentence-by-sentence writer, but also of how much he cares about literature.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “Franzen is without doubt a first-rate critic…It’s worth the purchase price just to read him on Alice Munro…Essayistic in the best sense: both deeply thought out and wonderfully argued.”


  • “In that opening address to Kenyon graduates, Franzen said: ‘What love is really about is a bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are.’ At their very best, his essays live up to this definition, crossing divides of form, time, and space to speak as wisely and warmly as a close, clever, and eminently real friend.”

    Independent (London)

  • “American writer Jonathan Franzen has established a pattern of taking almost a decade between novels. That’s one reason his new essay collection, Farther Away, comes as a welcome treat. Another reason is his always probing, and earnestly Midwestern, self-examination.”

    Winnipeg Free Press

  • “In both these essays and his own fiction, his words betray an immense amount of care. He’s a keen-eyed reader, too…It’s when Franzen writes about the things he loves that this collection soars.”

    Sydney Morning Herald

  • “You suddenly feel…like you’re in the company of someone with real insights into modern life, real compassion for people, and formidable tools of communication to get it all across—a bit, in fact, like you’re seeing one of his country’s best fiction writers successfully transfer his skills into the nonfiction realm…Taking Franzen’s words to heart, and paraphrasing what he writes about Munro, I’ll end by saying “Just read these essays.” Franzen takes a long time between novels—nine years between The Corrections and Freedom—but if collections like Farther Away are part of the process he requires, it’s a small price to pay.”

    Montreal Gazette

  • A 2012 Kansas City Star Top 100 Book for Nonfiction
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, May 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Vicky | 2/15/2014

    " Jonathan Franzen is great and The Corrections made a huge impact on me. At the same time I could not finish Freedom and struggled with it before giving it up. Something similar happened with this collection. I loved some of the essays but other topics were not very interesting for me. I expected to enjoy every page but browsed through many of them. I realised his unique talent but rushed through this book. I promised to myself to give Freedom another try. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kent Winward | 2/2/2014

    " Franzen's essays are the best when he is dealing in the literary world. His musings and reminiscences about David Foste Wallace were excellent. His essay on autobiographical fiction provides valuable insight into the development of a novelist and the artistic process, itself, all while being emotionally engaging. His reviews have given me a long new list of books to read. The book was its weakest when Franzen donned the journalistic hat on environmental issues and bird watching. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lyndon | 1/28/2014

    " Franzen's first collection of essays, How to Be Alone is a favorite of mine. Strangely, I don't care for his novels. I think this has to do with his analytic style to which he brings to bare in his essays on fellow writers, bird-watching in China, and life as a NYC transplant from the Midwest. I enjoy this voice more than the characters he creates. Farther Away is further demonstration of the good a novelist can do in accounting for the real struggles and joys of the world we actually live, rather than the one we read performed in the novel. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by William | 1/28/2014

    " I am not a reader of Franzen and obviously unfamiliar with his work and other references he makes. This collection of essays is better left to Franzen fans, although enjoyable for anyone who appreciates a good writer. "

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