Tag Archives: Jonathan Franzen

Book of Today: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

FA freedom

Because of all the authors out there, Jonathan Franzen is one of the few who probably knows that today is National Bird Day.

- Michael Moats

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Critical Hit Awards!

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The Critical Hit Awards are back!

Emily St. John Mandel of The Millions tells us how she got her absolutely badass middle name, and why Franzen, DFW’s ex-wife, and a wrongfully murdered black teenager are the subjects of her favorite recent book reviews.

See all the winners here.

- Brian Hurley

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Alice Munro wins the Nobel

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The internet has been lighting up recently with things Jonathan Franzen hates. Well here’s something he will love, and we can only hope it gets to him on whatever mode of communication he finds least annoying, like a rotary phone or a handwritten letter:

Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

As of a few hours ago, Munro was second in the running according to London oddsmaker Ladbroke. She was a 4-1 favorite, behind Haruki Murakami, who had a 5-2 chance of winning — but didn’t.  Either  way, these two leading contenders demonstrate the value of basically writing the same kind of story over and over again.

Other possibilities were Joyce Carol Oates and Peter Nadas, both 8-1 odds, Thomas Pynchon at 12-1, and Bob Dylan, who was at 50-1 but is more likely to write a song in which the nominees and/or their character feature prominently than to actually win the prize.

Munro is said to have retired after the release of her last book Dear Life. But if she does pick up the pen again, we at Fiction Advocate look forward to reading more stories about a young woman who grew up poor in Canada, leaves home, gets married, explores her sensuality, commits adultery, gets divorced, and wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Read more about Munro here. And this is why we know Franzen will be happy.

- Michael Moats 

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The Colbert in the Rye

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Last night, two of my favorite things came together when the cOlbert Book Club covered “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye.”

Colbert has spoken often about Salinger on his show. In 2008 he challenged the author to come on The Report, and covered Salinger’s passing in 2010. These segments hold to Colbert’s usual irreverence, but the show’s attention to Salinger comes from a genuine place. When he’s not in character, Colbert is a dedicated fan of  the author. In 2011, he contributed a small letter to Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100. In the book, he is pictured holding a stack of Salinger’s letters that are stored at the NYPL. Colbert wrote:

I suspect this photo would have annoyed J.D. Salinger. Here I am, the stereotypical liberal arts fanboy, going weak over something he typed.

But I can’t help myself. When I first read Salinger, I thought he wrote the Glass family stories just for me.

You can see the image and read the full entry in the book, which also features contributions from Jonathan Franzen, David Remnick, Zadie Smith and others.

Colbert reading Salinger's letters.

Stephen Colbert reading Salinger’s letters at the New York Public Library.

Last night’s Report was completely dedicated to Salinger. Over the fireplace was an adapted Catcher cover reading “The Colbert in the Rye,” and the segments included the first installment of the one-part series “Better Know a Salinger;” interviews with Tobias Wolff and Shane Salerno; and an appearance of JarJar Caulfield (just watch it).

There was no mention of The Real Holden Caulfield, but I speak for all of us at Fiction Advocate in saying that we would happily provide Mr. Colbert with a free copy. Or if he wants to purchase one (or a few), our proceeds are still being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project — another issue I know Colbert cares deeply about.

Watch the full cOlbert Book Club “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye” episode.

- Michael Moats

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Dyer Maker

FA And Sons

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At the center of the many characters and plot lines in David Gilbert’s new novel & Sons is an aging New York novelist named A.N. Dyer. Dyer’s debut work about young men in a Northeastern boarding school is an American classic, beloved by almost all who read it, most of whom do so as teenagers. Dyer has been deeply secluded in his New York apartment for years (in the opening scene at a funeral, some attendees have brought books to try and get signed). He has been in trouble for a dalliance with a much younger woman. And within 25 pages he has  referred to someone as a “sporty bastard.”

The parallels to J.D. Salinger here are obvious. There are other touches throughout the book. Characters crying at the natural history museum. “Fuck You” scrawled on a ceiling. A rain-soaked scene of emotional release at the Central Park carousel. One character, Jeanie Spokes, who works at Dyer’s literary agency and handled correspondence to the famous author, seems to be based on a woman who worked at Salinger’s literary agency and handles letters to the famous author. Dyer’s live-in nurse Gerd bears a passing resemblance to Salinger’s last wife Colleen, a nurse.

But & Sons is not a novelization of the imagined life of J.D. Salinger, and the famously reclusive author is only the most well-represented of several literary fathers here. Continue reading

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Pure Uncut Colombian

The Sound of Things Falling - Vasquez

If you haven’t been reading Juan Gabriel Vásquez—the most sought-after South American novelist who isn’t, you know, dead—now is the time to start. His new novel, The Sound of Things Falling, comes out today.

A native of Colombia, where the shadow of Gabriel García Márquez falls on every other writer, JGV uses GGM’s favorite aspects of South American history—the bloody coups and bizarre miracles—to very different ends. The narrator of The Informers navigates the urban labyrinths Bogotá and Medellín to uncover his father’s scandalous past as a Nazi collaborator. The Secret History of Costaguana alleges that Joseph Conrad stole the idea for Nostromo—every little detail—from the biography of a real-life Colombian man whose son is determined to get his father’s life back. In The Sound of Things Falling, a pilot who ran drugs for Pablo Escobar is murdered, and his death reveals how narco-trafficking has contaminated a whole generation.

Juan Gabriel Vasquez

In Vasquez’s novels, history is always more private and devastating than it seems. His narrators tend to ramble on, clutching their chests and shaking their heads, melodramatically absorbed in their own sense of destiny. But they know, correctly, that they are doomed by events beyond their control. Each book is like a soul-searching apotheosis of Law & Order, or what Paul Auster might write if had interned at the International Criminal Court. The Sound of Things Falling has already won the $175,000 Alfaguara prize in Spain, and no less an eminence than Jonathan Franzen has come indoors from his bird-watching to champion the book. So that familiar sound coming out of South America is the sound of things worth reading.

[excerpt from The Sound of Things Falling]

[BOMB interview with Juan Gabriel Vásquez]

- Brian Hurley

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YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Errata and Concordia

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Writing about the news-worthy David Foster Wallace events of 2012 seemed like a clever idea, and I committed to doing it before checking the math. I knew there was a lot of Wallace stuff — enough to justify a quick post and provide a platform for reviewing the books published over the last 12 months. It turned out there was A LOT of Wallace stuff, and the sheer effort of cataloging it all took up two long and patience-testing posts for readers and too many long and patience-testing days for me. As a result, mistakes were made. Continue reading

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YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE Pt. 2

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So much happened in the first half of 2012/YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE that it turns out I missed a few things. On 21 February, Wallace’s birthday, Berfrois ran “The Depressed Person in The Marriage Plot,” in which Daniel Roberts takes a closer look at the connections between Wallace and the character Leonard in Jeffrey Eugenides’ latest book. Adding to the steady march in April, Publishers Weekly began a two-week countdown of “The Top 10 Infinite Jest Characters,” starting with #10 (Barry Loach) and moving toward #1 (see here). Also, on 21 April came the long-awaited (by me at least) end of the “live” part in “Words, Words, Words: The Infinite Jest Liveblog.”

After a relatively uneventful May and June, YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE came roaring back in July. The monthly issue of GQ featured an interview with Nick Offerman, better known as Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation,” in which Offerman talked about being “halfway through Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – a writer who escaped my notice until a few years ago, when posthumously his final novel, The Pale King, came out.” In the very same issue of GQ, a Wells Tower piece on the pornstar James Deen made a Wallace-esque mention of one of Deen’s colleagues: “Kayden Kross, a wholly winning and improbably bookish young woman who reads the short fiction of David Foster Wallace between takes.” On 8 July, as noted, Roger Federer won Wimbledon, which led to Wallace-Federer references in The Telegraph, The Daily Beast, The Week, and GQ.com. There was even a weird piece on Wallace’s faith titled “Roger Federer Killed David Foster Wallace,” as well as an anti-Federer piece on the LRB Blog which noted that “‘Federer Moments’, as David Foster Wallace famously called them, are part of what I dislike. ‘Federer as Religious Experience’ says more about Wallace’s genius than Federer’s.” The following day, Michael Cunningham took to The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog to explain why Wallace (and others) didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Also on 9 July, the “Nieman Watchdog” at Harvard University offered “Lessons on covering politics from the late David Foster Wallace.” On the 11th, Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians books used his first impressions of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story to talk about hysterical realism. On 13 July, Page Turner posted a piece about subsidized time. Federer’s victory was still yielding DFW alerts when there came, on 16 July, the other significant non-book event in the YODFW: the launch of “Infinite Boston.”  The project was an ambitious effort by William Beutler to photograph and write about the real-life equivalents of various IJ locations:

I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts with the express purpose of visiting as many of the landmarks and lesser known precincts that appear in, or provide inspiration for, the late David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest as I could manage…now I am pleased to present what I am calling “Infinite Boston”: a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of some fifty or so of these locations, comprising one entry each non-holiday weekday, from now until sometime in early autumn.

“Infinite Boston” attracted broad interest, showing up on The Millions, The Rumpus, National Geographic’s The Radar, Fast Company’s Co.Create blog, and from there the technology section of nbcnews.com, among others. The notice was well deserved. “Infinite Boston” is thorough and artfully done — well worth exploring for anyone who loves Infinite Jest, or is currently working their way through it. The project also had a number of spinoffs, including the super cool, Google-maps enabled “Infinite Atlas” and some other cool stuff available for sale at the Infinite Shop.

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The first few weeks of July were pretty good — but the end of July illustrated the scope of what was happening in YODFW. On the 19th, CNN ran an online story about porn stars using Twitter to gain mainstream fame. One of the stars the mentioned was Kayden Kross, upon whom they bestowed the title “The Smartest Woman in Porn” and mentioned: “She often tweets about her favorite authors, David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo.” Four days later, the Wall Street Journal reported on a past meeting between DFW and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The two men had lunch and bonded over their shared enjoyment and rigor over language and grammar. Apparently the meeting led to some book Scalia wrote, which is not important. What is important is that, within the space of a few days, we could read about how a porn star and an arch-conservative Supreme Court justice both have strong affinities for our man.

Welcome back to YEAR OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE.

FA IJ Circle

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