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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,190 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Franzen Narrator: Jonathan Franzen, Brian d’Arcy James Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2013 ISBN: 9781427235121
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Passionate, strong-minded nonfiction from the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was the best-loved and most-written-about novel of 2001. Nearly every in-depth review of it discussed what became known as "The Harper's Essay," Franzen's controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel. This essay is reprinted for the first time in How to be Alone, along with the personal essays and the dead-on reportage that earned Franzen a wide readership before the success of The Corrections. Although his subjects range from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each piece wrestles with familiar themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Recent pieces include a moving essay on his father's stuggle with Alzheimer's disease (which has already been reprinted around the world) and a rueful account of Franzen's brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

As a collection, these essays record what Franzen calls "a movement away from an angry and frightened isolation toward an acceptance--even a celebration--of being a reader and a writer." At the same time they show the wry distrust of the claims of technology and psychology, the love-hate relationship with consumerism, and the subversive belief in the tragic shape of the individual life that help make Franzen one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alanmartinson | 2/8/2014

    " This collection of essays contains a heavy dose of the introspection that makes Franzen such a tremendous writer. More than any other writer I know of today, Franzen captures the tension between modern life and the virtuous life, particularly the tension between the simple utility-maximizing nature of technological advancements and the more effort-requiring joys of reading, thinking, and getting along with each other (or choosing to go it alone). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Helen | 2/5/2014

    " A nice collection of essays that kept me company during a semester in Moscow "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christopher Jones | 2/1/2014

    " A compilation of essays by Jonathon Franzen on being both a writer and reader. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne Julian | 1/31/2014

    " Confirmed my faith in Franzen. Love the way he launches from personal observations to reflections on the global and human condition. Despairing yet wry. Self-possessed but never self-indulgent. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Wednesday Green | 1/28/2014

    " I just could not bring myself to finish this book. It started out so damn strong, the first essay knocked my socks off - but, then...I found it hard to digest the incessant self-doubt and what can only be described as whining about "how difficult it is to be a writer" and the constant pondering about his "relevance." Oh holy shit, grow up and stop being so damned self-indulgent. He reminded me of the points when I loathed grad school. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jillian | 1/25/2014

    " I loved The Corrections, but Franzen comes off as a holier-than-thou techno-phobe in this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chade | 1/7/2014

    " Perfectly describes how it feels to be a lifelong reader. Loved it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy | 1/7/2014

    " Jonathan Franzen is the writing world's equivalent to Joe Friday. Somehow Franzen manages to give us Just The Emotions. His stories and essays move on with colorful and fully formed worlds, but what stays behind is the emotions engendered in being a human living in those worlds. In How To Be Alone Jonathan Franzen reveals himself, and validates the experience of all "social isolates." I read this book in a library edition, and then I bought myself a hard copy (not Kindle) because it is essential reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maddie | 1/6/2014

    " Franzen is a sexist pig who can bite me, but dude can write an essay. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Makenzie Collie | 1/6/2014

    " Mostly fantastic - there were a couple of boring parts but most of the essays were riveting. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Steve Goldberg | 12/30/2013

    " Overwritten garbage. It's one thing to show off your vocabulary and intellectual expansiveness, it's another to bore me at the same time. It's amazing because I love his fiction. This is wannabe David Foster Wallace without a heart. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 feathers | 12/10/2013

    " bart lent me this book in new zealand, and it reminded me how books are my best friend in hard times. in all the best ways ! plus the essay on the chicago postal service is just so fascinating. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt DeCostanza | 11/22/2013

    " Honestly, Franzen is a bit of a brat. Especially in "Mr. Difficult". If a novel is too hard for him then he should just put it down and not wail about it in an editorial. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 RK Byers | 10/14/2013

    " on my first ever reading of him, Franzen strikes me as being the "Mr. Glass" to Hunter S. Thompson's UNBREAKABLE. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 9/2/2013

    " It was interesting to read a book that mostly I disagreed with mildly. On the social issues, I thought he was mostly right, but I disagreed with many of his conclusions. But what he said about readers and the novel really resonated with me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Noelle | 8/19/2013

    " Franzen comes across as rather arrogant (again) but he backs that sh*t up by being an incredible writer and he remains one of my favorites. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chazzbot | 5/25/2013

    " Great collection from a smart, engaging writer. Subjects include Supermax prisons, appearing on Oprah, sex books, post offices, and more. Consistently informative and compelling, no matter the subject. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim | 3/20/2013

    " Disappointing. Unless you really want to know what Jonathan Franzen was thinking about in the 1990s, skip it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kimberlee | 3/9/2013

    " Better than I write. That is all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hedwig | 3/2/2013

    " I learned that I really like what Jonathan Franzen has to say about reading and writing and that I want to go and read The Corrections now. Also, I needed to dig up my dictionary. This guy uses some WORDS! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tracy | 2/9/2013

    " Some essays are great, some are a chore to read, and some are alright. "

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About the Author
Author Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen was previously known for his influential Harper’s essay, “Perchance to Dream.” He is now the author of several novels and multiple works of nonfiction, all receiving industry recognition. He splits his time between New York and Santa Cruz, California.

About the Narrator

Brian d’Arcy James is an American actor and musician whose on and off Broadway credits include Time Stands Still, Sweet Smell of Success, The Good Thief, Titanic, and Shrek. In 2009, his performance as Shrek in Shrek the Musical earned him his second Tony nomination. He is also an accomplished concert performer and has had the honor of performing for President Clinton and for President Obama and the First Family. He currently resides in New York City with his wife and daughter.