Jonathan Franzen

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Jonathan Franzen in 2011

Jonathan Franzen (born August 17, 1959) is an American novelist and essayist.


  • ... idea of what books and literature are for ... serious fiction ... It is for people who may be a little isolated ... may be isolated by the very fact that they like to read books. And that my job really is to participate in that community and make that human connection. So, I went from trying to impress people or change them ... to just trying to make that connection.
  • ... The struggle to rein in global carbon emissions and keep the planet from melting down has the feel of Kafka’s fiction. The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it. Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.
    If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.
  • Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it's just not permanent enough.'s going to be very hard to make the world work if there's no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.
    • "Jonathan Franzen Warns Ebooks are Corroding Values," The Guardian (Jan 30, 2012).
  • Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular.
    • Voices in the Wilderness The Guardian (Saturday 28 September 2002).
  • An ink bottle, which now seems impossibly quaint, was still thinkable as a symbol in 1970.
    • Voices in the Wilderness The Guardian (Saturday 28 September 2002).
  • Today's Baudelaires are hip-hop artists.
    • Voices in the Wilderness The Guardian (Saturday 28 September 2002).
ISBN 0-374-12998-3
  • A lack of desire to spend money becomes a symptom of disease that requires expensive medication. Which medication then destroys the libido, in other words destroys the appetite for the one pleasure in life that's free, which means the person has to spend even more money on compensatory pleasures. The very definition of mental 'health' is the ability to participate in the consumer economy. When you buy into therapy, you're buying into buying.
  • Nobody can ever quite say what's wrong exactly. But they all know it's evil. They all know 'corporate' is a dirty word. And if somebody's having fun or getting rich - disgusting! Evil! And it's always the death of this and the death of that. And people who think they're free aren't 'really' free. And people who think they're happy aren't 'really' happy. And it's impossible to radically critique society anymore, although what's so radically wrong with society that we need such a radical critique, nobody can say exactly.... Here things are getting better and better for women and people of color, and gay men and lesbians, more and more integrated and open, and all you can think about is some stupid, lame problem with signifiers and signifieds.
  • In the years when he'd worked full-time, he'd never complained about frozen or takeout or preprepared dinners. To Caroline it probably seemed that he was changing the rules on her. But to Gary it seemed that the nature of family life itself was changing - that togetherness and filiality and fraternity weren't valued the way they were when he was young.
  • All around him, millions of newly minted American millionaires were engaged in the identical pursuit of feeling extraordinary - of buying the perfect Victorian, of skiing the virgin slope, of knowing the chef personally, of locating the beach that had no footprints. There were further tens of millions of young Americans who didn't have money but were nonetheless chasing the Perfect Cool. And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary? Who would perform the thankless work of being comparatively uncool?
  • The taste of self-inflicted suffering, of an evening trashed in spite, brought curious satisfactions. Other people stopped being real enough to carry blame for how you felt. Only you and your refusal remained. And like self-pity, or like the blood that filled your mouth when a tooth was pulled - the salty ferric juices that you swallowed and allowed yourself to savor - refusal had a flavor for which a taste could be acquired.
  • 'It's who I am. Put somebody else's comfort ahead of my own? Go hop in a toilet to spare somebody else's feelings? That's the kinda thing you do, fella. You got everything bass ackwards. And look where it's landed you.'
    'Other people ought to have more consideration.'
    'You oughtta have less. Me personally, I am opposed to all strictures. If you feel it, let it rip. If you want it, go for it. Dude's gotta put his own interests first.'
  • 'What's your impression of the ship so far?' she asked. 'Is it really super authentic?'
    'Well, it does seem to be floating,' Mr Söderblad said with a smile, 'in spite of heavy seas.'
    Enid raised her voice to aid his comprehension. 'I mean, is it AUTHENTICALLY SCANDINAVIAN?'
    'Well, yes, of course," Mr. Söderblad said. 'At the same time, everything in the world is more and more American, don't you think?'
  • Life, in her experience, had a kind of velvet luster. You looked at yourself from one perspective and all you saw was weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looked reasonably normal. She believed she couldn't hurt anybody as long as she was only working.
  • ‘I’m not the person to ask about what’s normal,’ Denise answered. ‘I’ve mainly seen normal in the rearview mirror.’
  • It offended his sense of proportion and economy to throw away a ninety-percent serviceable string of lights. It offended his sense of himself, because he was an individual from an age of individuals, and a string of lights was, like him, an individual thing. No matter how little the thing had cost, to throw it away was to deny its value and, by extension, the value of individuals generally: to willfully designate as trash an object that you knew wasn't trash.
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