Monday, September 6, 2010

How To Be Alone

How To Be Alone is a collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen. It begins with 'My Father's Brain,' a meditation on his father's Alzheimer's Disease. It is striking to see familiarities with his family and mine coming to the slow realization of the thing that's wrong. That Franzen grew up here and is my age makes identifying with his work, perhaps, a bit easier for me. At any rate, I found common ground.

'The Reader in Exile' and 'First City' are my favorite essays in the collection. Here is a favorite quote: "Reading is a judgement. It brands as insufficient the understanding and priorities that govern ordinary life." I like to think of this not as a snobby elitism, but rather as a response to the vast majority of stuff provided to us in the marketplace.

I also read his new novel, Freedom, this weekend. It is, at its best, a call to mindfulness about the difficulty, responsibility and challenges of having so many opportunities to make decisions. At its worst it reads like a page turner created by someone who has come to understand his market.