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Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage

Read an excerpt below:

Moving back and forth among Franzen’s essays and novels, I propose to chart a single writer’s odyssey. In so doing, I broach a larger inquiry into the dilemma of the contemporary American novelist’s stance toward his audience. Does one write (affectionately, transparently, close-up) for the masses who populate mainstream culture or (critically, estrangingly, at a distance) for the elite who make up mandarin high culture? What does it mean to want to write for both audiences at the same time? Franzen’s life and career, this book argues, oscillate abidingly—and often incoherently—between the polar orientations of rage-driven highbrow critique and love-energized mainstream appeal. He continues to fascinate his immense readership—and to infuriate his considerable body of critics (Franzen-haters, it is fair to call them)—not least because he is engaged in a highwire act of reconciling what perhaps cannot be reconciled. We might figure these orientations as a circle that, for the past two decades, he has been working hard to square.


The book cover of Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage by Philip weinstein

This book and others by Philip Weinstein are available for purchase on Amazon.


Editorial Reviews

“Weinstein's Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage is a must-read for writers who want to understand how a novelist puts a body of work together. Weinstein (Swarthmore College) looks at how Franzen’s obsessions become the threads of his novels. Franzen―whose breakout novel was The Corrections (2001)―taps into all the anger, rage, disappointment, and insanity of an American family. When one reads Franzen, one is entertained. Weinstein reveals the building blocks of that entertainment―sex, bad parenting, misogyny, and the miserable pain that family members can perpetrate on each other. Being human is a messy business, and writing about how messy it is can be messy. Weinstein unravels how writing about that messy process takes place―how Franzen takes all that is wrong in the US and writes domestic novels that make him both a best-selling author and the darling of the literati. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.”

K. Gale, University of Nebraska, CHOICE

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