Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen

79%

35 Critic Reviews

The texts are both a testament to and an illustration of what attracts people to books—a delicate play between writer, text, character, and reader that prompts excellent questions and provides surprising answers.
-AV Club

Synopsis

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was the runaway most-discussed novel of 2010, an ambitious and searching engagement with life in America in the twenty-first century. In The New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus proclaimed it “a masterpiece of American fiction” and lauded its illumination, “through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, [of] the world we thought we knew.”

In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recounting his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his mixed feelings about the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace, or offering a moving and witty take on the ways that technology has changed how people express their love, these pieces deliver on Franzen’s implicit promise to conceal nothing. On a trip to China to see first-hand the environmental devastation there, he doesn’t omit mention of his excitement and awe at the pace of China’s economic development; the trip becomes a journey out of his own prejudice and moral condemnation. Taken together, these essays trace the progress of unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature, and with some of the most important issues of our day. Farther Away is remarkable, provocative, and necessary.

 

About Jonathan Franzen

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Jonathan Franzen is the author of four novels (Freedom, The Corrections, Strong Motion, and The Twenty-Seventh City), two collections of essays (Farther Away and How to Be Alone), a personal history (The Discomfort Zone), and a translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, all published by FSG. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. Karl Kraus (1874–1936) was an Austrian satirist, playwright, poet, aphorist, and journalist. From 1899 until his death, he published the literary and political review Die Fackel.
 
Published April 24, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 336 pages
Genres: Other, Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Farther Away
All: 35 | Positive: 26 | Negative: 9

Kirkus

Excellent
Mar 15 2012

An unfailingly elegant and thoughtful collection of essays from the formidable mind of Franzen, written with passion and haunted by loss.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Geoff Dyer on Jun 09 2012

One way or another, the essays in Farther Away are attempts to enlarge the place where literature, and the responsiveness to it, can be preserved.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Phillip Lopate on May 18 2012

...a touching portrait of his parents. We have met these two people before, more or less, as Alfred and Enid, the parents in “The Corrections,” and the author again writes wonderfully about his stoical father and overdemonstrative mother.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg on May 04 2012

FARTHER AWAY showcases that same questing, engaged mind, one unafraid to wrestle with some of the most perplexing mysteries of life and art.

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Toronto Star

Below average
Reviewed by Michel Basilieres on Jun 30 2012

Franzen is no intellectual slouch, but he’s no fair-minded judge either. Unfortunately, while his fans might see this as charmingly personal, it`s indiscriminately subjective and reduces these articles from actual essays to simple opinionated rants.

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Toronto Star

Below average
Reviewed by Michel Basilieres on Jun 30 2012

I’ve never read a collection of essays more pompous and self-serving.

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Star Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Kathryn Savage on May 05 2012

Franzen evokes Joan Didion's tone of rigorous self-examination, and Wallace's wit and philosophical prowess.

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National Post

Below average
Reviewed by Chandler Levack on Jun 08 2012

...Farther Away is too myopic and sad a collection to bear witness to.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner on Jun 01 2012

Farther Away is more product than artistic enterprise.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Emily Withrow on Apr 23 2012

The texts are both a testament to and an illustration of what attracts people to books—a delicate play between writer, text, character, and reader that prompts excellent questions and provides surprising answers.

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The Economist

Excellent
Apr 28 2012

A multifaceted and revealing collection, “Farther Away” actually brings the reader closer to the author.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Paul Clements on Jun 07 2012

But he is no slouch on the extra-curricular writing front... he writes continually about writing and reading, luxuriating in language and sticking up for literature for literature’s sake.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Tim Walker on Jun 16 2012

His attitude might be aggressively highbrow, but his underlying concerns are simple and humane: family, age, grief, love.

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Christian Science Monitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Anthony Domestico on Apr 24 2012

Like the best fiction, “Farther Away” charts a way out of loneliness.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Don Oldenburg on Apr 25 2012

At his best, Franzen exposes himself... with understated humor, level-headed alienation and rare insight, typically at the nexus of self-analysis and self-indulgence.

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Huffington Post

Excellent
Apr 24 2012

Some [essays] offer in-depth literary criticism but use humor and anecdotes to keep the language from getting too dry.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Below average
Reviewed by Craig Fehrman on Apr 27 2012

Certainly, you're better off reading Franzen's last two novels - and in hoping that, before he begins the next one, he rediscovers his sense of crabby ambivalence.

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Open Letters Monthly

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue

Dedicated fans of the late David Foster Wallace will want Farther Away for the various tributes, mentions, and even excoriations it offers to Franzen’s lost friend...

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The Daily Beast

Excellent
Reviewed by Chris Wallace on Apr 28 2012

And, ironic as it may be to read the defender of fiction, during a burgeoning golden age of nonfiction, writing essays to defend his craft, it is inspiring.

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Slate

Below average
Reviewed by David Haglund on Apr 26 2012

“Farther Away” feels like a betrayal of the ethics of storytelling ...

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Wamica on May 30 2012

His reflections... are all essayistic in the best sense: both deeply thought out and wonderfully argued.

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Boston.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Washburn on May 13 2012

“Farther Away” isn’t a complete wash... Moments of insight and beauty erupt throughout.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by John Bailey on Jun 17 2012

In both these essays and his own fiction, his words betray an immense amount of care.

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The Millions

Below average
Reviewed by Noah Stayton on May 08 2012

Not every piece soars, but none fails to get off the ground...

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Scotsman.com

Below average
Reviewed by Stuart Kelly on May 26 2012

The overwhelming tone of Farther Away is defensive and disdainful, perhaps exacerbated by Franzen’s insistence that he is interested in what the novel and the novel alone can say – in which case, why this?

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Time Out New York

Excellent
Reviewed by Dan Lopez on May 30 2012

Taken together, however, these writings present a broader, more freewheeling curiosity than the novelist generally indulges in his fiction

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Los Angeles Review of Books

Excellent
May 27 2012

...he maintains his ground with characteristic intelligence and earnestness.

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The Rumpus

Excellent
Reviewed by Ben Pfeiffer on Jun 04 2012

With Farther Away, Jonathan Franzen has proved once again why his intelligence, empathy, and humor have earned him widespread acclaim...

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The Age

Excellent
Reviewed by Malcolm Knox on Jun 09 2012

Although its diverse subjects are more impersonal than in those collections, Farther Away contains perhaps his most self-revealing work.

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New Zealand Listener

Excellent
Reviewed by Charlotte Grimshaw on Jun 09 2012

Much of the book is a record of his attempts to connect with the natural world, and you have to applaud his impassioned plea for authenticity...

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New York Observer

Excellent
Reviewed by Alex Fankuchen on Apr 17 2012

With Farther Away, Mr. Franzen demonstrates his ability to dissect the kinds of quotidian concerns that so often evade scrutiny.

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Newcity Lit

Excellent
Reviewed by Rachel Sugar on Apr 24 2012

When Franzen is brilliant, he’s engaging, not opining.

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Slant Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Sumanth Prabhaker on Apr 10 2012

As they are, they're unfortunately necessary reminders of what the author is capable of when he has more to do than to say.

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The Coffin Factory

Excellent
May 04 2012

Farther Away is remarkable for many reasons, but perhaps the most is that, in these essays, Franzen has created a testament to the value of fiction and literature.

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North by Northwestern

Excellent
Reviewed by Corinne White on May 21 2012

But I think that his work is essential, and this collection of essays enabled me to see him in a new light – more like a friend than an intimidating New Yorker writer.

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Reader Rating for Farther Away
62%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 46 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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