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The End of the End of the Earth: Essays Hardcover – 13 November 2018
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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 calamities, 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.
The work of a writer at the top of his game-limber and lovely, delivering deep insights with delicacy and grace. --Sarah Crown, The Guardian
Franzen, unlike many, listens. It's what makes him one of the best living writers of fictional dialogue, and it's what makes his arguments productively provocative. --Charles Arrowsmith, The Washington Post
[Franzen's] turning over rocks along the shore and finding noteworthy details beneath. --Bill McKibben, The New York Times Book Review
If, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, the "test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function", then Franzen has passed with flying colours. --Andrew Gallix, The Irish Times
The End of the End of the Earth feels carefully crafted around a central concern: 'How do we find meaning in our actions when the world seems to be coming to an end?' . . . Franzen proves himself up to the challenge of the essay as a form, as 'something hazarded, not definitive, not authoritative, ' and of a subject so vast and important that it affects us all. Ignore the tweets, read the book. --Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times
About the Author
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (13 November 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374147930
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374147938
- Dimensions : 14.5 x 2.25 x 21.36 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 557,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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However, there is very little anger in The End of the End of the Earth. Instead there is, if not despair, at least a bleak feeling of unstoppable loss permeating the text. Franzen devotes relatively few pages to criticizing Trump and his ilk and instead chooses to focus on his practical ethic of small concrete actions that can be done to preserve what is still good.
For Franzen himself, this is largely dedicated to efforts to preserve the world’s avian wildlife. But mixed in with it are portraits of other individuals defying the Facebook image conscious world by making meaningful human relationships, creating photographic portraits which convey a real sense of the person and, defying the omnipresence of Tweets, writing essays like those in this book that go to the pith of the matter.
Lest you harbor any illusions, the end of the end of the earth is not a new hopeful beginning but a description of the environmental havoc being wreaked in Antarctica (which Franzen aptly refers to as the end of the earth). Instead, what Franzen offers the reader is a vision of the need to do concrete good in a world and biosphere constantly falling into greater entropy.
I doubt this vision will much capture the attention of the American public when there are so many more vapid messages being shouted from megaphones. But that doesn’t make it less sincere or less important. If all that we have at the beginning of the twenty-first century is to ground ourselves in the concrete good before a coming ecological catastrophe it is more than a message of unmitigated despair.
Franzen should be commended for not deploying his artistic talent in the service of the left’s agenda but choosing to articulate his unique vision, popular or not. Highly recommended for those who are able to at least sympathize with such a bleak account of our civilization and planet.