It starts out very strong. He uses his remarkable vocabulary, storytelling ability, and his disregard for political-correctness. The book is divided i...moreIt starts out very strong. He uses his remarkable vocabulary, storytelling ability, and his disregard for political-correctness. The book is divided in five chapters and in first Franzen describes in detail how he chose the wrong realtor to sell his mother's house. I think he uses this start as an introduce, where he stops a continual disappointment to his strict, provincial parents and shows how his mother's opinions have deeply influence on his life.
He goes back to his childhood with the next chapter "Two Ponies". He is telling about "Peanuts" and its creator Charles Schulz, and how is he related to these characters. At some point he also relates to Schulz himself, particularly because of Schulz's feelings as an outsider whiles growing up. I liked this chapter because story telling is sweet/bitter/sarcastic and entertaining.
Unfortunately, for me the book goes a bit downhill from there to the next chapters. Long passages about a Fellowship church camp were boring on a moment, with exception a tale about his high school gang adventures of vandalism. Furthermore the part of his German during a semester abroad and his college years were interesting to me. He describes his growing 'love/interest/criticism' to this language and its literature. I like it because it's full of wavering, grave consideration on the beginning, but then the debates with his professor Avery and colleagues ripped his opinion.
Finally, with "My Bird Problem," Franzen beat the spirit of the book. For me this was the most boring part. Bird chasing all over the country, description of rare species, its extinction, the world climate changes,...For some bird fans I believe this one would be enjoyable, but not for me so far.
However, this was the first book I read from him. I think it is not a very good choice reading his biography first. Since he got a National Book Award for The Corrections, maybe this would be better choice for a start. (less)