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The End of the End of the Earth Digital – WAV, 13 November 2018
A sharp and provocative new essay collection from the award-winning author of Freedom and The Corrections
In The End of the End of the Earth, which gathers essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Jonathan Franzen returns with renewed vigour to the themes – both human and literary – that have long preoccupied him. Whether exploring his complex relationship with his uncle, recounting his young adulthood in New York, or offering an illuminating look at the global seabird crisis, these pieces contain all the wit and disabused realism that we’ve come to expect from Franzen.
Taken together, these essays trace the progress of a unique and mature mind wrestling with itself, with literature and with some of the most important issues of our day, made more pressing by the current political milieu. The End of the End of the Earth is remarkable, provocative and necessary.
Praise for The End of the End of the Earth:
‘… by refusing to hope for the impossible, Franzen, improbably, manages to produce a volume that feels, if not hopeful, then at least not hopeless. There’s nothing he can do – there’s probably nothing any of us can do – to avert or even alleviate the coming catastrophe. But for now, he’s here and he’s alive, and over the course of these essays he offers us a series of partial, tentative answers to the question he poses himself at the beginning: “ How do we find meaning in our actions when the world seems to be coming to an end?” Guardian
‘Can be read, in part, as a welcome alternative to the current, dominant American political tone of one-note belligerence’ Observer
‘Franzen shows himself to be the kind of unacademic critic who recognises and does not disapprove of the Common Reader’s natural tendency to feel for the characters the author has brought into being’ Scotsman
Praise for Jonathan Franzen:
‘A literary genius for our time’ Guardian
‘Arguably America’s greatest living novelist’ Daily Telegraph
‘Franzen is that rare bird: a literary novelist of the highest distinction who has also become one of the bestsellers of the age’ Evening Standard
‘Franzen’s words crackle with wit humour and wisdom’ Shortlist
About the Author
Jonathan Franzen’s work includes four novels (The Twenty-Seventh City, Strong Motion, The Corrections, Freedom), two collections of essays (Farther Away, How To Be Alone), a memoir (The Discomfort Zone), and, most recently, The Kraus Project. He is recognised as one of the best American writers of our age and has won many awards. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.
- Publisher : Fourth Estate; Unabridged edition (13 November 2018)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 0008299250
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008299255
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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.