Jonathan Franzen, the Booth Interview, and his Novel, Freedom

Over the weekend, I was doing some online-literary-journal browsing, just some catching up, trying to see what’s going on in that world. The most interesting thing I found was an interview between Booth‘s Susan Lerner and Jonathan Franzen. In the interview’s introduction, Lerner calls Franzen “arguably the best living American novelist” — I’m never quite sure how we go about making and justifying these claims — but she was also quite clear that during Franzen’s visit to Indianapolis, he had been kind, present, and pleasant. If such a disclaimer seems defensive, you can forgive her because Franzen has such a tendency to make headlines in all the wrong ways. As the story goes, several years ago, he even pissed Oprah off.

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Finding an Angle of Repose

“I may not know who I am, but I know where I’m from.” ~Wallace Stegner

“Wisdom…is knowing what you have to accept.” ~Lyman Ward in Angle of Repose

Reading, writing, and living take us on all sorts of enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable tangents. As un undergraduate student at Anderson University, I took an interest in the writing, speaking, and lifestyle of Shane Claiborne, who started The Simple Way, which is an inner-city communal living organization in the tradition of New Monasticism. In interacting with him on a visit, he kept mentioning this guy named Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer and writer. So I started reading Berry and could not get enough of him. The vision he offers of living in the contemporary world is maybe still the best I have found. But his literary mentor, a former professor at Stanford, was a guy named Wallace Stegner. I figured I ought to read him, too, which is how I came across Angle of Repose,  a Western novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. (The New York Times showed its protest against the Pulitzer decision by hardly mentioning the novel or its author in their own pages.)

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