Jonathan Franzen Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jonathan Franzen has published numerous essays in magazines and journals such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, Details, and Graywolf, essays with a common underlying theme: the conflict between individuality and mass culture. In 2002, these essays were published in the collection How to Be Alone. Franzen also has published articles in the form of the memoir. His 2006 book The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History explores the difficulties associated with growing up in the American Midwest and assimilating its contradictory values.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jonathan Franzen won a Whiting Writer’s Award for The Twenty-seventh City and the American Academy’s Berlin Prize (2000). The New Yorker named him one of the twenty best writers of the twenty-first century, and Granta listed him as one of the Best Young American Novelists (2001).

In 2001, Franzen’s novel The Corrections was selected for Oprah’s Book Club, setting off a slew of controversy when Franzen expressed reservations about his work being selected. Eventually, however, Franzen and Winfrey resolved their differences, and she even was one of the people he thanked when The Corrections received a National Book Award for Fiction. In 2002, British judges honored this novel with the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, awarded by the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Also in 2002, Franzen’s essay, “My Father’s Brain,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and The Discomfort Zone was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (2006).


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bearn, Emily. “The Recalcitrant Genius: Jonathan Franzen Says Success Is ‘Like a Sudden Unpleasant Illness.’” The Calgary Herald, December 15, 2002, p. D12. A sympathetic interview with Franzen.

Eakin, Emily. “Jonathan Franzen’s Big Book.” The New York Times, September 2, 2001, sec. 6, p. 18. Considers the possibility that Franzen’s past personal misfortunes were in part conditional for his success as a writer.

Italie, Hillel. “Correcting for Failure: Jonathan Franzen on Course with the World’s Most Awaited Novel.” South Bend Tribune, September 16, 2001, p. F6. Biographical background on Franzen, including his literary influences.

Lehmann, Chris, et al. “Jonathan Franzen: A Defense.” November 1, 2001. This debate, archived on the internet magazine Slate, centers on Franzen’s perceived ingratitude toward Oprah Winfrey’s book list and Winfrey’s response.