Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Jonathan Franzen  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: 1959 in Western Springs, Illinois

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Jonathan Franzen was born in Western Springs, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Jonathan Franzen is a novelist and essayist. He was born in Western Springs, Illinois and grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. A graduate of Swarthmore College (1981), Franzen began publishing novels in the late 1980s. His book, The Corrections, a sprawling, satirical family drama, drew widespread critical acclaim, earned Franzen a National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Corrections, his third novel, was getting good reviews and selling well when Oprah Winfrey announced she had selected it as her "book of the month." Franzen's response was less than enthusiastic and he became known as the guy who snubbed Oprah Winfrey's television book club.Franzen currently resides in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

The Twenty-Seventh City: A Novel (Bestselling Backlist)
ISBN: 0312420145

Picador. 2001

St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city's leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American Dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy.

Strong Motion: A Novel
ISBN: 031242051X

Picador. 2001

Louis Holland arrives in Boston in a spring of ecological upheaval (a rash of earthquakes on the North Shore) and odd luck: the first one kills his grandmother. Louis tries to maintain his independence, but falls in love with a Harvard seismologist whose discoveries about the earthquakes' cause complicate everything.

How to Be Alone: Essays
ISBN: 0312422164

Picador. 2003

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics

While the essays in this collection range in subject matter from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each one wrestles with the essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civil life and private dignity

and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Reprinted here for the first time is Franzen’s controversial l996 investigation of the fate of the American novel in what became known as "the Harper's essay," as well as his award-winning narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease, and a rueful account of his brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History
ISBN: 0374299196

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2006

Jonathan Franzen arrived late, and last, in a family of boys in Webster Groves, Missouri. The Discomfort Zone is his intimate memoir of his growth from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person," through an adolescence both excruciating and strangely happy, into an adult with embarrassing and unexpected passions. It's also a portrait of a middle-class family weathering the turbulence of the 1970s, and a vivid personal history of the decades in which America turned away from its midcentury idealism and became a more polarized society.

The story Franzen tells here draws on elements as varied as the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafka's fiction on his protracted quest to lose his virginity, the elaborate pranks that he and his friends orchestrated from the roof of his high school, his self-inflicted travails in selling his mother's house after her death, and the web of connections between his all-consuming marriage, the problem of global warming, and the life lessons to be learned in watching birds.

These chapters of a Midwestern youth and a New York adulthood are warmed by the same combination of comic scrutiny and unqualified affection that characterize Franzen's fiction, but here the main character is the author himself. Sparkling, daring, arrestingly honest, The Discomfort Zone narrates the formation of a unique mind and heart in the crucible of an everyday American family.

Freedom
ISBN: 0312600844

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2010

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.


Awards

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1988 Whiting Writers' Award

1996 Granta's Best Of Young American Novelists

2001 National Book Award for The Corrections

2001 New York Times Best Books of the Year

2001 Salon Book Award (Fiction)

2001 New York Times Best Books of the Year for The Corrections

2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist (Fiction)

2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize winner (Fiction) for The Corrections

2002 PEN/Faulkner Award finalist

2011 Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize for Fiction for Freedom