Everyone is reading the wrong JONATHAN FRANZEN

Jonathan Franzen, The Discomfort Zone review

At a crowded signing of Franzen’s most recent novel, “Freedom,” a woman standing in line behind me said, “Jonathan Franzen is like Justin Beiber to adult intellectuals.” He is popular. But I had to force myself to finish “The Corrections.” And I read a long excerpt of “Freedom,” in the New Yorker, and that was enough for me. You know how there’s the kind of therapist that listens to everything you say and mostly just nods, providing witness? That, to me, is what Franzen’s fiction is like. And you know how there’s the other kind of therapist that tells you their opinions, explains complex things to you, and makes you feel understood? That, to me, is what his nonfiction is like. I’ve read both his collection of essays and his memoir (pictured above) twice and am itching to read them again. The next time you feel nauseated from spending too many hours clicking through b.s. like TMZ pics of celebs’ cellulite at the beach, read “How to Be Alone” and “The Discomfort Zone” to feel grounded and mentally engaged again. These snippets are too short to do him justice, but they’ll give you an idea:

“Imagine that human existence is defined by an Ache: the Ache of our not being, each of us, the center of the universe; of our desires forever outnumbering our means of satisfying them”

“the prospect of nuclear annihilation (my longtime pet apocalypse)”

“my wife’s sort of intelligence still seemed to me the best sort, her moral and aesthetic judgments still seemed to me the only ones that counted”

“Depression, when it’s clinical, is not a metaphor. It runs in families, and it’s known to respond to medication and to counseling. However truly you believe there’s a sickness to existence that can never be cured, if you’re depressed you will sooner or later surrender and say: I just don’t want to feel so bad anymore”

“Although ‘The Family Circus’ was resolutely unfunny, its panels clearly were based on some actual family’s humid, baby-filled home life”

“Adolescence is best enjoyed without self-consciousness, but self-consciousness, unfortunately, is its leading symptom”

“After the excitements of (birding in) South Texas, I was hollow and restless, like an addict in withdrawal. It was a chore to make myself comprehensible to friends”

“And there, floating nonchalantly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world—which is, after all, the way of magical creatures in enchanted places—was my black-bellied whistling-duck”