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How to Be Alone: Essays Paperback – October 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Criticism of Franzen as "elitist" is over-stated. If you, like I, are one of those "isolates" who starts reading early in life, you will likely find sympathy with Franzen's perspective as I did. I think "elitist" is a word thrown at those who read and think like Franzen by those who don't. I don't believe the book is elitist so much as representative of a different class of readers in American society who are a little more isolated from American consumer culture and generally find the consumer-driven, media-saturated, conformist version of America unsettling to say the least.
Likewise, his discussion of how widespread use of "serotonin reuptake inhibitors" such as Prozac feeds into a general lack of awareness is quite thought-provoking. If pain, even mental anguish such as depression, can be thought of as a warning from the body that something is wrong, then the whole cultural approach now in vogue to anesthetize the pain is the functional equivalent of a denial of the pain, a quite deliberate attempt to paper it over and therefore disregard the important message it is sending to the individual that something is very wrong.Read more ›
But, for me, this is the level at which the book works best. Franzen's (self) portrait of the impoverished, angst-ridden artist is a beguiling one. He salvages broken furniture from a trash heap...Read more ›
Franzen's critique lacks nuance. He puts "serious fiction" on a pedestal and uncritically glorifies the "reading life." Meanwhile, he adopts an effete stance in relation to all things mass/pop culture, essentially showing off about getting rid of his tv and situating himself in the context of Quentin Compson, not Seinfeld. Without irony, he bemoans the moment when movies became "films."
While arguing the distinction between high and low culture, Franzen reveals a loathing for anyone lacking his sense of taste and refinement: those unwashed masses who (gasp!) watch tv and listen to pop music.
He concludes that he's learned that being a writer, reader, and thinker means being alone. Not only *working* alone, but also living apart from the culture and adjusting an "oppositional" (a term Franzen seems to define in a particular way--more on that in a moment) stance.
I find this problematic. Yes, of course intellectuals must devote themselves to their work, spending long hours at the keyboard or in their reading chairs. And yes, writers ought to engage in "oppositional" thought--critiquing contemporary life (which Franzen does brilliantly in "The Corrections"), taking stances opposed to dominant thought with all its banality and oppressiveness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have really appreciated this book of essays over the past couple of years. I get that people disagree with Franzen's attitude and I don't think that would really make him sad. Read morePublished 1 month ago by flournnoi
How to Be Alone is an excellent, accessible introduction to Jonathan Franzen, with a well-curated collection of essays on topics ranging from the Chicago Post Office to the state... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Inspired
I've read one of Mr. Franzen's novels ("Freedom"), and it was quite good. This collection of essays is from his stint as freelance journalist between novels. Read morePublished 3 months ago by CJA
Some interesting and amuzing sections and some rather boring sections.Published 4 months ago by Kristin Skogeng
I liked some of it. I was expecting more from him to be honest. Perhaps my expectation were too high. I like his ideas for the most part - he writes very honestly. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Bob Wachholder
The selection of essays are so repetitive as to be comical.Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer