Monday, August 16, 2010

Franzen's New Book and New Look at Jack London

Book excitement. Jonathan Franzen's new novel, "Freedom", his first since 2001's brilliant "The Corrections", will be released on August 31st. And the reviews! The New York Times calls it "both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times" Others are similarly glowing. I cannot wait.

Also, a very interesting article on Jack London from Slate.com. When I was in school and my teachers talked about London, they mentioned briefly that he taught himself to write and then assigned us his short story about the wolf. Or whatever it was about. What we didn't learn was that London was a devoted socialist as well as an inveterate racist. Now I'm not one of those guys who think a writer's biography is just as important as their work, but some of that biographical information might have been useful to know while reading to, you know, place his work in some context.

School always seems to find a way to make fascinating people, places, and things much less so, doesn't it?

2 comments:

Harwell said...

How is the Time article? I started reading it in the dentist office the other day but got called in before I could get very far. Does he talk about why he took as long as he did to come out with this novel?

The Jack London bio sounds awesome.

JudgeHolden said...

I read it at the bookstore the other day --pretty cool actually. It was written by Lev Grossman who wrote the fairly well-received 'The Magicians" last year. Some fun stuff in there about Franzen's workspace (he rents an office and inside is a desk, a chair, and his laptop -- no other adornments or distractions), and how David Foster Wallace's death affected him (it spurred him to work harder). He said it took him a long time to write 'Freedom' because 'The Corrections' was based a lot on what was happening/had happened with his own father but this book was all creating the characters from whole cloth. After a few years of writing, he had no pages, but he did have a voice for one of the characters, which is what he used as the foundation of the book. He described the early stages of the writing process for the new book as "miserable". Can't wait to read it.