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Farther Away

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  2,739 Ratings  ·  332 Reviews
Jonathan Franzen's Freedom was the runaway most-discussed novel of 2010, an ambitious and searching engagement with life in America in the twenty-first century. In The New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus proclaimed it "a masterpiece of American fiction" and lauded its illumination, "through the steady radiance of its author's profound moral intelligence, [of] the wor ...more
Hardcover, 321 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2012)
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MJ Nicholls
Jan 14, 2013 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 22, 2015 Rebecca Foster rated it really liked it
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 30, 2012 Terry Heller rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jun 08, 2014 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 09, 2014 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
Jul 30, 2012 Kevin Brown rated it it was ok
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
May 03, 2012 James Schneider rated it liked it
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 12, 2013 Pixelina rated it liked it
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.
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
Jun 03, 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
Apr 30, 2014 Snotchocheez rated it liked it

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 26, 2014 Barbara rated it it was ok
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 31, 2012 Kyle Sergeant rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2016 Dan rated it liked it
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
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was ok
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
Mar 30, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
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 21, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Anne Tuuk
Mar 05, 2014 Anne Tuuk rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 05, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
A more eclectic collection of essays, many of them shorter than you'd normally expect from Franzen. There are a half-dozen book reviews, and I'm taking Franzen's suggestion/plea to read Alice Munro. The first half was almost great, the second half cooled off a lot. Still, the themes are so varied that they don't need to be read in any certain order. Franzen lingers on despair in "Farther Away." He offers many questions and no answers.
Dr Bill
Oct 16, 2012 Dr Bill rated it really liked it
Was I the only person on the planet bored to death with FREEDOM? Perhaps. This is a book of scattered writings some powerful, some useful. His tribute to his friend David Foster Wallace touched me (powerul). His advice onComma-Then is a must read for all journalists and aspiring writers (useful).
Marcia Call
Jan 20, 2013 Marcia Call rated it really liked it
This was the first book I had read by Jonathan Franzen after having read so much about him. What I most enjoyed about this book of essays was the original works as opposed to the book reviews. I especially enjoyed Farther Away and On Autobiographical Fiction. I did come away with a reading list as well from his book reviews. Anyone interest in how literature is created will enjoy this book.
Dec 02, 2014 Zahra rated it liked it
همراه خوب و لذتبخشی بود واسه رفتوآمدهای طولانی و خستهکننده روزهای کاری. انگار یه آدم باهوش و خوشصحبت تمام طول مسیر کنارم نشسته بود ...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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“Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.” 71 likes
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