In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Jonathan 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.
Well with any "collection" of anything you know that it will be a bit hit and miss. Farther Away was definitely that for me. A collection of short essay's, introduction's, speeches and various other literary accomplishments this book is compiled with the most recent writing, from 2011, at the beginning working backwards to 1998.
I had not heard of Jonathan Franzen prior to Farther Away so I was not quite sure what to expect. What I got was the writings, and at times very personal thoughts, of a very intellectual and well written man. The prose is sensational and the author has set a very high benchmark for future novelists. The collection is seemingly random but is for the most part a very personal and autobiographical account of a ten year period of Franzen's life whilst recounting much of his earlier life.
Having read this book I now know what is a disturbing amount of information on endangered and migratory birds, and the massive environmental crisis that we are facing as a planet by our inability to act as one world in stopping what is known to be damaging and wrong. The plight of the song birds (and many, many other species) on their migratory path was so distressing to read about but is worth the price of this book if only for that one essay. There are in fact several essay's relating to environmental issues all of them enlightening and well written.
Franzen also includes introductions/essays of books he has read. Some of these I enjoyed and some I did not. I immediately went out to source one he writes of "The Man who Loved Children" authored by Christina Stead. The particular edition he enthuses at great length over was published in 1965. I was only able to acquire an edition published in 1995 but was interested to note that there is now available a recent edition with an introduction by Franzen. Perhaps why this essay was included in Farther Away? That is, of course, an aside as irrespective of why it was selected, it is a very fine piece of writing which certainly evoked the desired response of me now engrossed part way through this purported great classic!
I certainly enjoyed reading this book though found myself more engrossed in his recent writings and not so very taken with his earlier work. For the essay's that I enjoyed I would highly recommend this book as it is money well spent to read such great words.
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