Book Rec: How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

It's Election Day, people. Get out there and vote. Whether it's for Obama, or McCain, or McKinney, or any of the other various independent parties, the most important thing is to express your preference. The second important suggestion is to not be bullied into expressing who you support if you don't want to. It's OK if you don't have a sign on your lawn or a sticker on your car. Everything is going to be OK. And just remember: we (hopefully) will have a brand new president elect tonight. Barring any unfortunate counting issues. Enough politics. On to Snoopy boy.* Book Rec: How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen There are some who swear by David Sedaris for their go-to contemporary non-fiction reference. Indeed, his work is very polished and entertaining, and sells exceptionally well. While I've had friends who go nuts over the latest David Sedaris column in The New Yorker, I can only think of a handful of essayists who do the same for me. Jonathan Franzen is the most well known of those writers. I'm on my third copy of his excellent collection How to Be Alone. What helps Franzen stand out to me is his willingness to edit his work. The note on my current 2003 edition expresses that "Earlier versions of most of these essays first appeared [elsewhere]...the essay "Scavenging" has bee modified." Instead of just compiling his work like others do into a collection, Franzen understands that something can always be improved. The stand out to me is his infamous "Harper's Essay," in which he basically states the novel is dead and nothing can save it (or is it?). It's dark, it's bitter, and it's passionate. Does it make a whole lot of sense? Maybe not. But it sure is well written. Well, in his highly edited revision entitled "Why Bother?" it is, which is good enough for me. Franzen is capable of digging deep into his psyche and expressing highly complex thoughts through beautiful imagery that still leaves me in awe. There are a wide variety of subjects touched on in this book, from Alzheimer's to pornography and everything in between. It really has something for everyone. Give it a try, won't you? *I very well may be going insane. I get that people didn't really like the "Moe'N'A Lisa" episode of The Simpsons, where Lisa helps Moe become an overnight sensation in the world of poetry. But why can't I find the full transcript of the fight scene between guest stars Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon. Am I making up the Snoopy boy insult hurled by Chabon at Franzen? Or am I mixing it up with a sight gag I know exists where Franzen smashes a portrait of Snoopy over Chabon's head? Either way, the reference fits, as it plays off Franzen's incredible essay The Comfort Zone, discussing how he used to read Peanuts comics as a child while his father and older brother fought. It might be his most well known work besides The Corrections.

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