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Farther Away

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  2,809 Ratings  ·  338 Reviews
This collection of Franzen's non-fiction confirms his status not only as a great American novelist but also as a master noticer, social critic, and self-investigator. In 'Farther Away', he returns to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Fourth Estate (first published 2012)
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MJ Nicholls
Jan 13, 2013 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, merkins
Franzen’s second collection of non-fic trimmings is as strong as his first, albeit slacking on the long luscious literary essays that made How To Be Alone such a public event (remember, there were STREET PARTIES when that beast was published!), and too ornithological for five-star status. One man’s birdwatching is another man’s trainspotting and Franzen fills almost 90pp with enormous pieces on crested tits and other porn-flappers. Jeez. Otherwise, ‘On Autobiographical Fiction’ is a brilliant ri ...more
Here is a story about Jonathan Franzen: I read The Corrections several years ago, perhaps just after it was at its zeitgeistiest. Yes that's a word. What are you looking at.

Anyway, I remembered really liking it, and several years later when I found myself contemplating a fairly limited audiobook selection at my parents' home library, I checked out an audio version of the Corrections and listened to most of it on a trip. It was not as good as I remembered it being, but I thought, well maybe now m
Rebecca Foster
This brilliant essay collection is worth the price of admission just for the first piece, “Pain Won’t Kill You” (his 2011 commencement address at Kenyon College), which is, bluntly put, about the difference between the throwaway Facebook ‘like’ and truly falling in love with someone or something. He uses the personal example of birdwatching: “it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool.”

Yet discovering that enthusiasm for birds taught
Terry Heller
May 28, 2012 Terry Heller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the years since he refused Oprah Winfrey's invitation to go onto her show to discuss his novel The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has developed (though some might say "earned" or even "sought") a reputation as a crank, or a grouch. What too few of the stories about him take the time to explain is that he is usually cranky for all of the right reasons. This collection contains heartfelt essays, journalism, and speeches that argue that our smartphones reduce intimacy just as much as they increas ...more
Thomas Edmund
Apr 27, 2012 Thomas Edmund rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Franzen's first essay dissects modern technology/internet trends, in particular FaceBook's (and now others') 'Like' feature. He pulls apart the desire to be likeable, and the need to be real, contrasting having many 'likes' to being genuine.

Kinda hits home as I write a review in the hopes that I will receive many 'helps'.

I don't typically find reading challenging in this way, which sums up Franzen's brilliance. While his topics vary to the point of mania, sharp intellect, and what I can only des
Bill Breedlove
Oct 05, 2012 Bill Breedlove rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not to be contrarian, but I think I prefer Franzen's essays and nonfiction to his fiction. I enjoyed his earlier book HOW TO BE ALONE much more than either THE CORRECTIONS or FREEDOM. FARTHER AWAY deals with some very personal issues, but ones that Franzen is able to use to illuminate his thoughts on the (mainly) upper-middle class American human condition of the 21st century. There are some "filler" pieces here--a screed against the annoying use of "then" seems to be one--along with book review ...more
B the BookAddict
Oct 15, 2013 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: highly recommended
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: other Franzen books

A collection of essays and speeches written in the last five years. It covers various issues which are important to Franzen including the life and suicide of his dear friend David Foster Wallace. It traces the progress of Franzen's unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day.

An intimate portrait of Franzen and who'd have thought it? The guy is a devoted bird watcher! I am taking this book slowly, don't want to lose the esse
Mar 23, 2017 Maria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-english
I skipped two essays because they were boring and I just learned from lithub post that in my life I only have time to read 4500 more books, so here's that and it's a first day of the rest of my life.
Nov 06, 2012 Corey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Like a lot of other people on this site, I struggled to find interest in the essays on birding.

Franzen has gained a lot of credibility with me as a compelling and competent writer, and so I really did try to like the essays. I wanted to like them. I Googled the birds he references in the essays to try and understand what he sees in them, I took care during my cigarette breaks to scan the trees to see the birds and try to identify them (although, God help me, I can't tell wrens from sparrows or b
Kevin Brown
This collection of essays simply frustrated me, as it's clear Franzen is a good writer, and I've enjoyed his other essays, but this one was so uneven. Part of the problem is that I have no interest in birding or birds, and Franzen clearly does have an interest in both, and he wrote about those at length, at times. He also mentions David Foster Wallace a few times, as they were good friends, but that simply makes me mentally compare Franzen's essays to Wallace's, and there's just no comparison. A ...more
James Schneider
This latest collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen is necessarily uneven. His literary criticism continues to be compelling and enthusiastic, his social commentary continues to be somewhat infuriatingly self-righteous, and his interest in birds continues to be somewhat eccentrically interesting. What colors this collection more than anything is his rage and sorrow over his dead friend, David Foster Wallace. Wallace is explicitly discussed in several pieces, but his specter looms throughout. Fr ...more
Oct 11, 2013 Pixelina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's about books and birds really. I got it cause I heard about the essay on Munro and then just kept going and was surprised over how much more sympathetic Franzen is here then in what little I heard about him in media.

I might even try one of his novels after this one.
Olha Khilobok
Apr 14, 2017 Olha Khilobok rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If the man says, "Read Alice Munro", you go and read Alice Munro.
Ben Dutton
Jun 24, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This new collection of essays from Jonathan Franzen, now one of the grand men of American letters, covers mostly the later half of the 2000s. There are a number of essays here that prefigure themes latent in his novel, Freedom, and illuminate and contrast some of the thinking in that novel.

At its heart are two great essays: the title piece, which explores Franzen attempting to get away from civilisation, at least for a day or two and which becomes a meditation on nature, art and personality all
Eduardo Iriarte
Como siempre me ocurre con este autor, tengo que quitarme el sombrero ante su técnica narrativa, pero cuando entra en asuntos que me son ajenos (como en este caso, el largo ensayo sobre la caza ilegal de aves canoras en ciertas partes de Europa), puede llegar a resultar mortalmente aburrido. Aun así, ya sólo por el artículo que dedica al fallecido David Foster Wallace en contraste con el clásico "Las aventuras de Ronbison Cruseo", merece la pena leer esta colección de ensayos sobre la literatura ...more
May 28, 2013 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Jonathan Franzen best when he's at his grouchiest. There's plenty of that to whet your appetite in Farther Away, as well as no shortage of well-considered thoughts on literature, ecology, and, at his most unguarded and vulnerable--at his most unforgettable--his pal David Foster Wallace. Some of these don't read quite like what you'd expect from him: the brief and beautiful "Our Little Planet," or the opaque "Our Relations: A Brief History," or even the funny-if-a-little-tiresome "Intervie ...more

This is (for me, anyway) an extremely tough book to review on its own merit. Franzen will always be on my "must read" list (at least his fiction, anyway. He earned that distinction by penning my second favorite book to date: The Corrections.) This collection of "essays", however, is an uneven, avian mishmosh that lacks cohesion, and is at times somewhat boring.

The biggest reason why this is so tough to review is that it's impossible not to compare this with the incomparable essayist/novelist, t
Jan 19, 2014 Barbara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Most books I read usually elicit a strong reaction from me.

By the time I've finished the last page, I have either strongly enjoyed or strongly hated my time with a book. I can then log onto Goodreads and easily put into words what I loved/despised about it.

However, my time with Jonathan Franzen's "Farther Away" isn't that easy to sum up. The collection of essays, speeches and book reviews left me flip flopping between captivation and aggravation.

Overall, I couldn't connect with Franzen's writin
Kyle Sergeant
Dec 29, 2012 Kyle Sergeant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Franzen understands the sort of writer he is, and I recommend this collection to writers or readers believing they are writers.

I read anything by Franzen (which is better explained in a review for The Corrections) and read this collection with excitement. Pain Won’t Kill You, I Just Called To Say I Love You and Our Relations: A Brief History’s social observations were well thought out and made me snicker, but when I remember this writer claimed “the novel is dead” and the pretention that comes w
Originally published in Time Out New York

In his latest collection of essays, Jonathan Franzen reiterates his well-documented love of birds and mourns his late friend, the literary heavyweight David Foster Wallace. Much of the better material here has been previously published. Taken together, however, these writings present a broader, more freewheeling curiosity than the novelist generally indulges in his fiction.

A kitschy gift provokes a cautionary tale on sustainability and emerging economies
Emir Kaymakoglu
Feb 19, 2017 Emir Kaymakoglu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yazarın kişisel hobisi olan kuşlarla ilgili yazdıklarını dışarıda tutarak söylüyorum; kitapta çok güçlü denemeler var. Franzen genel olarak çağdaş yazarlar arasında önemli bir yere sahip, denemelerden oluşan bu kitap da bir istisna değil bence.
May 08, 2012 Jeremy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Few contemporary American writers are as good at ridiculing contemporary America as Jonathan Franzen is. He has next to no sympathy for the numerous manifestations of our popular culture and how they almost inevitably leave us feeling empty, unhappy, and less alive as people. And he manages to communicate all of these things in his essays with humor, wit and at times, something approximating compassion. Unfortunately he beats these strengths to death in Farther Away, which is nowhere near as str ...more
Feb 03, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people may find it heartening to see that even someone as talented, intelligent and self-critical as Mr Franzen cannot avoid including the odd clunker in this his second essay collection.
“Our relations: a brief history” is a two-page story that maybe is autobiographical but certainly will remain cryptic to anyone outside Mr Franzen’s inner circle. And “Comma-then” is an eructation about a grammatical usage that grates on Mr Franzen’s ear. He may well have a point, since I accept Mr Franzen
May 20, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although I gave this book two stars, reading Franzen's collection of essays was a freeing experience for me. After struggling through Freedom I wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn't I like a book the rest of America seemed to adore-- both casual readers and literary critics alike. Thinking it must just be a fluke, I picked up The Corrections. Again, I loathed it. Now, I picked up this well-written collection of essays and had the same reaction: while Franzen is undeniably a skilled writer, ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
FARTHER AWAY. (2012). Jonathan Franzen. ****.
This volume collects a bunch of essays, interviews, and reviews that, according to the info on the book flap, Franzen wrote in the last five years. (This isn’t strictly true, since the last article was one that was used as an introduction for a reissue of a novel in 1991, but – so what.) There is no over-riding theme to this collection, but each article is written with the precise and thoughtful prose of one of the best writers of our times. What doe
Feb 05, 2014 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I picked up Franzen's How to Be Alone in grad school and recall liking it, so I picked this up. A few of the essays I really enjoyed and a few others were passably good, but the ones I didn't like--at least half the book--I loathed. So many sentences seem tortured. Each one dripping with the authors desire to be viewed as smart and tortured. Imbuing a character with these qualities--or any flaws--is the purpose of good fiction. I don't mind wanting to punch a character, but I'm less generous whe ...more
Dan Nielsen
Jul 22, 2012 Dan Nielsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of essays, which means to me that you don't have to read them all. So I'm not. If I'm not hooked after a few pages I move on to the next. In this particular book of essays I'm often hooked. My favorite so far is one called "On Autobiographical Fiction". I meant to copy out a short passage so I might as well do it here. The author is addressing and lamenting the too often asked interview question: What are your influences? Here is the passage ...

" ... my work represents an active c
Jun 04, 2012 Doug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When Franzen mines new territory - in this case, his grief/anger/sadness at the suicide of his best friend, David Foster Wallace - he remains as poignant and perceptive as ever. But these moments are few and far between, as Franzen stays on well-tread territory. He assumes erroneously, as ever, that the reader will become as passionate about birdwatching as he is, and he again spends much time on his concerns for the environment and the encroachment of technology. It's not that any of this is b ...more
Anne Tuuk
Feb 27, 2014 Anne Tuuk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't take any graduate course in English, but I am thinking this collection would make a terrific choice in any upper level English lit curriculum. And actually the book's appeal should apply to anyone who likes well thought-out essays. The polished, energetic writer injects fresh insights on a wide variety of subjects, including the art of writing, love, bird-watching and much more. His passion for writing comes through on every page, and some personal reflections sprinkled liberally keep it ...more
May 22, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't seem to get ahold of Jonathan Franzen. He's kinda clever, kinda funny, kinda well-spoken, but what's his thing? What's he thinking? Is he hip, cool, irrational? I read this whole collection of essays and I'm still not sure. I liked but never loved some of his stuff, sympathized with a few of his ideas (in particular, his feeling that technological advances are rarely cool, largely useless but nonbothersome, and sometimes screw your Grand-pah lifestyle over, as with Microsoft Word), but w ...more
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Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by FSG. His fourth novel, Freedom, was published in the fall of 2010.

Franzen's other honors include a 1988 Whiting Writers' Award, Granta's Best Of Young Ameri
More about Jonathan Franzen...

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