A sharp and provocative new essay collection from the award-winning author of Freedom and The Corrections.
The essayist, Jonathan Franzen writes, is like “a fire-fighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames of shame, is to run straight into them.” For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second life as a risk-taking essayist. Now, at a moment when technology has inflamed tribal hatreds and the planet is beset by unnatural calami- ties, he is back with a new collection of essays that recall us to more humane ways of being in the world.
Franzen’s great loves are literature and birds, and The End of the End of the Earth is a passionate argument for both. Where the new media tend to confirm one’s prejudices, he writes, literature “invites you to ask whether you might be somewhat wrong, maybe even entirely wrong, and to imagine why someone else might hate you.” Whatever his subject, Franzen’s essays are always skeptical of received opinion, steeped in irony, and frank about his own failings. He’s frank about birds, too (they kill “everything imaginable”), but his reporting and reflections on them—on seabirds in New Zealand, warblers in East Africa, penguins in Antarctica—are both a moving celebration of their beauty and resilience and a call to action to save what we love.
Calm, poignant, carefully argued, full of wit, The End of the End of the Earth provides a welcome breath of hope and reason.
Out November 2018
I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Everyone in the world is entitled to their opinion, some having more than others they feel it necessary to share. I never really gravitated toward essay writing, nor do I really read essays as a rule. Johnathan Franzen is a straight-shooter when it comes to writing, direct and to the point and often brilliant.
He also has a passion for birds and is admittably an avid bird-watcher.
My grandfather used to sit outside smoking his pipe while watching and feeding birds, sometimes for hours and when I asked him why he’d put so much time into such a feat, he’d wisely tell me, “You can learn a lot from watching animals. It’s the birds that tell you the most about the world and your place in it. All you have to do is emmerse yourself in their world by watching, listening and appreciating what a small life in such a big world represents. It is then that you will fully understand how precarious and precious life is. Humans show no appreciatition of such things, and the birds know this, yet they always come back hoping for more from them.”
Jonathan Franzen’s writing reminds me of my grandfather and all his wisdom. However, he needs to stick to what he is knowledgable about and leave Edith Wharton alone.
He clearly has no clue who she was and why she was a writer. Nor does he have a clue as to what she represents to the writing community, especially to women. Why on earth would a female writer be more appreciated and more successful if she were prettier? I guess this clearly explains the position of women throughout history and their struggles for equality and acceptance for what’s in their heads and not what is expected to be their service as chattel. In this day and age, male thoughts such as those expressed by Jonathan Franzen in his essays, are indicative of pointless sexism still directed at an equally intelligent aspect of the human race. It is only a wonder if there ever will be an end to sexism. What do men seem to fear about women and why do they feel the need to constantly remind them of their ‘place.’ I digress… Jonathan Franzen’s obsession with Edith Wharton’s looks is anything but fathomable.
His essays would have been more enjoyable without this distraction.
I gave this book: