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The Twenty-Seventh City

3.12  ·  Rating Details ·  3,325 Ratings  ·  327 Reviews
St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city's leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 8th 2001 by Picador (first published 1988)
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Postmodern Genius
164th out of 439 books — 454 voters
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95th out of 154 books — 83 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 21, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“The guiding principle of Martin’s personality, the sum of his interior existence, was the desire to be left alone.


If all those years he’d sought attention, even novelty, and if he still relished them, then that was because attention proved him different and solitude begins in difference.”
― Jonathan Franzen, The Twenty-Seventh City

Franzen's freshman effort is striking. First, just one long gaze at the picture of Franzen on the back and it makes me think this kid must have been gnawing on ideas
Aug 30, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
This is a big weird book, and the first novel I've been able to get into after a depressing reading rut. For some reason every reviewer on here seems to have hated or at least been disappointed by this book, but I thought it was a fun and unexpectedly bizarre read. Sure, it sagged a bit in the middle, but what 500 page book doesn't? I really haven't been able to get into any fiction in ages, and I wolfed this thing down in three days, looked forward to picking it up when I had to put it down and ...more
Aug 03, 2008 Billy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Jonathan Franzen
Hmm. It's hard to say this, since Jonathan Franzen has more talent in writing than I will ever have even tying my shoes. But compared to "Strong Motion" and "The Corrections", this book is tiresome, and falls unmistakably short of its ambitions. There are some hints of his gift (on more consistent display in later works) for hyper-perceptive and realistic accounts of the moment-by-moment consciousness of his characters; if only his regard for his characters in this one were more evenly distribut ...more
Let's talk about the comparisons between two of my favorite writers of the present era, Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. Both write great, sprawling novels that, while epically long, aren't very difficult. Both express the unique anxieties and lonelinesses of our present era, and will both probably be remembered by future scholars as representative writers of our times. But in both cases, their first novels were really pretty weak. The Broom of the System feels like a young writer's ra ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Chris rated it liked it
This book held a very intersting ballance between being a page-turning thriller and a slow-paced, almost boring novel of mid-city civics. Franzen's first novel, it should have replaced the map of St. Louis with a chart of characters, a la most Tolstoy translations; the geography never was quite as confusing as the fifty+ main characters, their relationships, and which corperations or city office they controlled.

The plot is oddly conservative, centering around a plot by foreign (Indian) investors
Jul 28, 2011 Holly rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, hated-it
There should be a symbol for 'hated it.' One of the worst books I have ever read. Pretentious, agonizing, worthless, populated with extremely boring characters (in my opinion). What is it about? Some uninteresting combination of St Louis, Indian nationals, immigration and terrorism, a metaphorical story about metaphors, and Jonathan Franzen's love for his own vocabulary (or his thesaurus). I was actually angry at myself for finishing it, the Bataan Death March of books. If I ever read another Jo ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Kiof rated it really liked it
Fake review: How can someone so obviously intelligent be a mere transcriber of platitudes? (quote from the book, btw). Real review: One of the trademarks of Franzens writing is the aftertaste of cynicism readily apparent in every one of his rather brilliant psychological insights. So it is hard for the reader not to treat his work with a similair level of hypercriticism.
Like how the friend who makes you laugh the most isnt neccesarily going to be a great stand up comedian, so every man or woman
Dec 08, 2010 Lori rated it did not like it
Hey, uh, Jonathan, I'd like my week back. That week I spent reading this piece of you-know-what? I know, I know, I read you backwards. Totally my mistake. I started with The Corrections several years ago, which I dearly loved. Then I read Strong Motion, which wasn't nearly as satisfying, but was still a worthwhile read. And now this. I stuck with this one to the very end because Strong Motion redeemed itself only in its latter pages. I kept thinking, okay, Jonathan, tie up a few of those loose e ...more
Dec 24, 2015 Houdini rated it it was ok
Έκανα μια έρευνα στο διαδίκτυο σχετικά με το βιβλίο,διάβασα τα επαινετικά σχόλια και τους εγκωμιαστικούς χαρακτηρισμούς (π.χ ''κλασσικό'') μα δεν μπορώ να πω πως ενθουσιάστηκα από το ''τρομερό παιδί'' της σύγχρονης αμερικανικής λογοτεχνίας.Προσπάθησα,δεν μπορώ να πω πως δεν προσπάθησα.Επί έξι ημέρες το έκανα βόλτες από καναπέ σε καναπέ,ώσπου εγκατέλειψα την προσπάθεια να τελειώσω αυτό το ογκώδες βιβλίο (στην σελίδα 342).

Το Σεντ Λούις βρίσκεται σε παρακμή.Από την τέταρτη θέση που βρισκόταν στην λ
Sep 15, 2014 Carriefeibel rated it really liked it
For those confused about the tone of this book, keep in mind it's a farce. Yes, you can see Franzen beginning to develop his trademark of creating deep characters with mixed intentions and loveable weaknesses. But some characters never gel and some get dropped (Duane never gets unmasked?). Who cares? The fun of the book is in the teetering-on-the-edge-of-plausibility plot. Franzen tries to imagine how St. Louisans, his staid, conflicted but conventional St. Louisans would react to terror, fires, ...more
Jan 21, 2008 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
OK, if this book didn't contain so many references to Webster Groves I wouldn't have found it that great. "The Twenty-Seventh" city is a reference to St Louis and the plot is a bizarre takeover plot by Indian nationals. The identities of area notables and bigwigs are, by intent, not so carefully disguised and playing the game of "who's who" is fun. Find the place where Franzen goofs and calls Civic Progress by its real name, rather than the euphemistic title he gives it in the book (which has si ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Sep 28, 2013 Mattia Ravasi rated it it was amazing
An incredible debut novel, a wonderfully Pynchonian work, and the demonstration that Franzen can be awesome even with something different from a Midwestern family saga.
Mar 14, 2010 Anna rated it liked it
Reading this book will give you a tight butt and killer abs. Franzen's first novel makes you work incredibly hard in order to keep up with the breathtaking variety of writing experiments he undertakes, such as (1) switching back and forth between time frames with no visible cues (e.g., line breaks); (2) writing whole page (or multiple page) sections without referring to character names; and (3) "skipping" entire events, requiring the reader to infer what happened between chapters (or parts of a ...more
Dec 03, 2010 Angela rated it it was ok
Sometimes I wonder if authors ever look back at their first book(s) and think, "wow, I can do so much better than that now." Think they ever regret publishing the early stuff?

I can't even tell you what happened here. It was so chocked full of politics (which I don't understand to begin with) and conspiracy (that I couldn't figure out the purpose for) that following anything was impossible.

A lot of my issues were character-related. There were just so many of them, with so few being memorable, tha
Aug 02, 2015 Kathy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was Jonathan Franzen's debut novel and he wrote it about his hometown, St. Louis. The St. Louis connection was fun. It took me awhile to get into the book and figure out what was going on. I think that part of this might have been that the novel when originally submitted was over a thousand pages and Mr. Franzen was immediately told that it had to be severely edited before it was publishable. I am not sure if the author or an editor did the majority of the editing, but it m ...more
I quit after... not very many pages.

Bleaaaah fuck this book.
Dec 28, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
Oh, Jonathan Franzen, where to begin? Let me preface this by saying that I chose to read this book at random. I had just finished reading the latest lengthy installment of Robert Caro's masterful LBJ biography and I needed a fiction selection. I looked at my Amazon wish list of books to read, did a random number generator, and this book was at the top.

One more preface: just two days ago, after reading this book but before writing this review, I saw an excerpt of David Foster Wallace's biography
Sep 26, 2010 Gordon rated it liked it
Have you ever read an incredibly bleak and depressing book that was written so beautifully that you couldn't stop? Given all the buzz about Franzen's Freedom, I decided to see what his style was like in one of his previous works. He's a great writer, there's really no question about that, but the profoundness and specificity of the novel's examples make for a direct and devastating attack on any romanticized conceptions of America. If you want to know what's sick and twisted about any of the rel ...more
Apr 15, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it
I am a definite Franzen fan, I loved Freedom and thought the Corrections was a fascinating character study kind of book even if I thought Freedom did laps around it. But this is not in the same class as those two. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but at times it felt like a bit of a labor, and if it weren't for the trust Franzen has already built up with me from his past works, I'm not certain I would have seen it through to the end.

The plot is a sprawling conspiracy tale set in St. Louis
Aug 06, 2012 Corey rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I am a Franzen fan. After reading and thoroughly enjoying- The Corrections, Freedom, and even The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History- I (somewhat) incorrectly assumed an immediate connection to The Twenty-Seventh City. The novel’s premise screams intrigue: urban restructuring, political corruption, suburban discontent (in true J-Franz style), and adultery. However, the result was none other than an over-ambitions, convoluted plot and an ending filled with unnecessary murder. On a se ...more
Mike Keirsbilck
Sep 23, 2012 Mike Keirsbilck rated it liked it
Shelves: r-52-books
Being a big fan of both the Corrections and Freedom, I decided to explore Franzen's earlier work. I started off with The Twenty-Seventh city, and was a bit surprised by how much this one differs from his later work. Instead of a satyrical tranche-de-vie of American (family) life, this one is a political thriller of sorts.

The story takes off when S. Jammu, an indian police officer with a double nationality, starts as the head of the St. Louis police department. She plots a conspiracy in order to
Feb 28, 2011 Jess rated it it was ok
I rescued this book from the trashpile when my company moved and threw out an entire bookshelf worth of stuff. I'd never read any Franzen and thought this would be a free opportunity to do so.

There were times when I would begin to get pulled into the story, but the disorganization of the storytelling and the inconsistency of the writing style always left me confused and a bit alienated. Towards the end it picked up as the threads were coming together, but I didn't really like how it all turned o
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction
This seems like the book which is most indicative of the 'maximalist' style which Franzen gets labelled as practicing. He throws just about everything he can at you, interior monologue, fake letters and news reports. It has a sort of perfunctory, journalistic feel throughout, in spite of the numerous stylistic tropes he messes around with. It takes a while to get off of the ground, and he leaves these big nebulous, loops of action which you sort of have to fill in with your own conjectures (is t ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Juris rated it really liked it
Before reading this novel I was one of the people who considered Franzen over-rated. I have read THE CORRECTIONS, FREEDOM, and PURITY; which were all too similar I was ready to give up on Franzen all together. But after I was giving this novel I gave it a chance, and to my surprise, I was shown a whole different Jonathan Franzen. This book makes me understand, but I still do not agree, why his name was always mixed in with the likes of Pynchon, Delillo, and DFW.
Maybe the fame of THE CORRECTIONS
Jul 25, 2009 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that I ever really got this book to be honest, but I enjoyed comparing it to the same author's The Corrections, one of my very favorite novels. In my opinion, this book falls into the Abuse of the Novel Form category (previously inhabited only by John Irving), trying to expand its universe too far and cram in to much detail and description. The Twenty-seventh City never really fills the space Franzen creates for it, and thus it is hard to care about what happens to St Louis or its i ...more
Jan 03, 2011 Kim rated it liked it
I was gearing up to start Freedom, but I picked this up for 50cents at the library book sale and started reading. There is a plot line re. a mass-scale terrorism attack (on Busch Stadium) that is especially interesting in light of the fact that it was written 13 year before 9/11, but mostly I am enjoying all of the references to familiar St. Louis spots (the story is set here and I believe Franzen is a native.) Not enough UCity yet, but of course in the late 80s UCity was still on the decline an ...more
May 05, 2016 Charles rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Leslie Graff
Feb 18, 2015 Leslie Graff rated it did not like it
Meh... The whole time I was reading this I couldn't help but compare it to DeLillo's Underworld and White Noise. Yet, the comparison left me confused as I so enjoyed DeLillo but was terribly bored by Franzen. Of course, reading a book about terrorism is quite a different experience in today's world as when I first encountered DeLillo, a year before 9/11 would change our perspective so fundamentally. Would I enjoy DeLillo as much today or are these books written for young people (especially young ...more
Richard Bon
Sep 20, 2014 Richard Bon rated it it was amazing
Compared to Freedom and The Corrections, this predecessor, Franzen's first novel, didn't wow me as much its language or flow or the depth of its characters, but the intricacy of plot and indictment of urban American politics, still relevant today, captivated me to the last.

An immigrant to St. Louis from India, new police chief S. Jammu's political tactics are heartless and fierce. Without regard for collateral damage, she destroys people's lives as she works toward her goals for the city, the b
Mark Speed
Mar 24, 2014 Mark Speed rated it really liked it
A big novel for a young writer to take on - full of large characters and big themes: economic decline, closet racism, institutional corruption and complacency. Franzen chose his home town on St Louis - Gateway to the West, Rome of the West. The joke is that it was the fourth-largest city in the US in 1870, and at the time of writing it had dropped to 27th (58th in terms of population in 2012 - the descent continues). Young novelists are like rebellious teenagers - always ready to bite the hand t ...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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“The guiding principle of Martin’s personality, the sum of his interior existence, was the desire to be left alone. If all those years he’d sought attention, even novelty, and if he still relished them, then that was because attention proved him different and solitude begins in difference.” 4 likes
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