Jonathan Franzen Essays

Winner of the 2001 National Book Award for The Corrections (2001), Franzen is regarded as one of the best emerging novelists of the twenty-first century.A strong believer in both the power and necessity of literature, Franzen has produced three novels which have identified him as a growing presence in the literary world and an articulate voice in the ongoing debate over the evolving direction of fiction.

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Biographical Information Franzen was born in 1959 in Western Springs, Illinois. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, Missouri, and Franzen grew up there—a locale which later became the setting for two of his novels.

He attended Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, earning a bachelor's degree in German in 1981, and spent the following year at the Freie Universität in Berlin as a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship.

The Twenty-Seventh City is an exploration of deep intrigues with myriad plot twists. Louis, city leaders hire Susan Jammu, an American-born cousin of Indian leader Indira Gandhi, to head the police force.

However, Jammu comes to the job with her own agenda that remains nebulous until the conclusion of the book.

Major Works The title The Twenty-Seventh City takes root in the fact that St.

Louis was once the fourth-largest city in America, later falling to twenty-seventh.Franzen dedicated the next six years dedicating himself to these characters, ultimately creating the Lambert family, who form the narrative core of the novel.In 2001 his publisher engineered strong word-of-mouth hype about the book, making its release one of the most anticipated of the season.While he initially accepted the honor, Franzen found himself growing increasingly uncomfortable with certain business details—particularly the presence of the “O” sticker on the book's jacket that indicated it was the latest Oprah selection.In several interviews after the nationally broadcast unveiling, Franzen publicly expressed his discomfort with associating his work with Oprah's “corporate logo,” as well as insinuating that his book might prove to be beyond the comprehension of a typical reader.Upon returning home, he married a fellow writer, Valerie Cornell, and took a weekend job at Harvard University.Franzen and Cornell spent the next few years dedicating themselves to the creation and enjoyment of literature, an existence Franzen generally characterizes as nearly idyllic despite their difficult financial situation.Receiving extremely positive reviews and a high initial order, Franzen looked forward to achieving his goal of releasing a critically acclaimed work of “high art” that would engage his target audience.However, a series of confluences engulfed the novel in an unexpected debate that nonetheless ultimately dovetailed with his goals.While continuing his association with The New Yorker, Franzen retreated to an office to focus attention on minor characters he was creating.After deciding that a scene about an elderly couple on a cruise ship was perhaps the finest writing of his career, he abandoned other work in progress and began laboring in near-seclusion on The Corrections.


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