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Jonathan Franzen quotes (showing 1-30 of 569)

“How wrong to have been so negative, how wrong to have been so gloomy, how wrong to have run away from life, how wrong to have said no, again and again, instead of yes.”
Jonathan Franzen
“Nice people don't necessarily fall in love with nice people.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression's actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.”
Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone
“But the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.”
Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone
“You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight—isn't that a strange thing? That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you're less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result: isn't it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you've experienced before? You see things more clearly and you know that you're seeing them more clearly. And it comes to you that this is what it means to love life, this is all anybody who talks seriously about God is ever talking about. Moments like this.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“He was lovable the way a child is lovable, and he was capable of returning love with a childlike purity. If love is nevertheless excluded from his work, it's because he never quite felt that he deserved to receive it. He was a lifelong prisoner on the island of himself. What looked like gentle contours from a distance were in fact sheer cliffs. Sometimes only a little of him was crazy, sometimes nearly all of him, but, as an adult, he was never entirely not crazy. What he'd seen of his id while trying to escape his island prison by way of drugs and alcohol, only to find himself even more imprisoned by addiction, seems never to have ceased to be corrosive of his belief in his lovability. Even after he got clean, even decades after his late-adolescent suicide attempt, even after his slow and heroic construction of a life for himself, he felt undeserving. And this feeling was intertwined, ultimately to the point of indistinguishability, with the thought of suicide, which was the one sure way out of his imprisonment; surer than addiction, surer than fiction, and surer, finally, than love.”
Jonathan Franzen
“There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it's the right unhappiness.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“This wasn't the person he'd thought he was, or would have chosen to be if he'd been free to choose, but there was something comforting and liberating about being an actual definite someone, rather than a collection of contradictory potential someones.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“It’s all circling around the same problem of personal liberties,” Walter said. “People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don’t have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can’t afford to feed your kids, even if your kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“The human species was given dominion over the earth and took the opportunity to exterminate other species and warm the atmosphere and generally ruin things in its own image, but it paid this price for its privileges: that the finite and specific animal body of this species contained a brain capable of conceiving the infinite and wishing to be infinite itself.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“I guess my life hasn’t always been happy, or easy, or exactly what I want. At a certain point, I just have to try not to think too much about certain things, or else they’ll break my heart.”
Jonathan Franzen
“The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary?”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“But nothing disturbs the feeling of specialness like the presence of other human beings feeling identically special.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“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.”
Jonathan Franzen, Farther Away
“Integrity's a neutral value. Hyenas have integrity, too. They're pure hyena.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“Imagine that human existence is defined by an Ache: the Ache of our not being, each of us, the center of the universe; of our desires forever outnumbering our means of satisfying them.”
Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone
“You're either reading a book or you're not.”
Jonathan Franzen
“Walter had never liked cats. They'd seemed to him the sociopaths of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries, saluting the uniforms of killers as cat owners stroke their animals' lovely fur and forgive their claws and fangs. He'd never seen anything in a cat's face but simpering incuriosity and self-interest; you only had to tease one with a mouse-toy to see where it's true heart lay...cats were all about using people”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“Every good writer I know needs to go into some deep, quiet place to do work that is fully imagined. And what the Internet brings is lots of vulgar data. It is the antithesis of the imagination. It leaves nothing to the imagination.”
Jonathan Franzen
“Fiction is a solution, the best solution, to the problem of existential solitude.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“Without privacy there was no point in being an individual.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“But she was seventeen now and not actually dumb. She knew that you could love somebody more than anything and still not love the person all that much, if you were busy with other things.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
“He couldn't figure out if she was immensely well adjusted or seriously messed up.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“Life, in her experience, had a kind of velvet luster. You looked at yourself from one perspective and all you saw was weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looked reasonably normal.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“So, what, you got cigarette burns, too?" Gitanes said.

Chip showed his palm, "It's nothing."

"Self-inflicted. You pathetic American."

"Different kind of prison" Chip said.”
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“It took hours to turn the clock back 30 seconds.”
Jonathan Franzen, Strong Motion
“The world was ending then, it's ending still, and I'm happy to belong to it again.”
Jonathan Franzen, How to Be Alone
“There's a hazardous sadness to the first sounds of someone else's work in the morning; it's as if stillness experiences pain in being broken.”
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

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