The View From Hemingway's Attic

Culture, politics, literature

William Hazelgrove

William Hazelgrove
chicago, Illinois, usa
January 27
William Hazelgrove is the best selling author of four novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks Mica Highways and Rocket Man. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. His latest novel Rocket Man was chosen Book of the Year by Books and He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway’s Attic. He lives in Chicago.


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APRIL 27, 2012 4:54PM

Franzens Farther Away :Essays

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I'm a Franzen freak. I'll admit it. I sent him my fourth novel for a blurb and heard nothing back of course. I expected no less. I have read and reread The Corrections and Freedom both three times each. I hated and loved both books upon initial reading and then was forever addicted to the lessons of each book. So now struggling with my own MONSTER novel that is severely kicking my collective butt, I hunger for any tidbits, morsels, anything to the point the way after page 700 is passed on any first draft and you are quite sure you have written something brilliant or a colossal dud. So I bought Farther Away.

I had read the titledessay Farther Away before on the death of David Foster Wallace and Franzens' retreat to an island. So I was really interested in the other essays which have not disappointed. I am not a bird man and to read the The Ugly Mediterranean you really should be in to birds. But after that I find the other essays smooth sailing which is my understated way of saying I inhaled them. They are good. For the writer they are brilliant. And yes there were a few clunkers. Hornets among them.  But so what. When you can sit with someone and hear them talk about their writing who you admire...well, does it get any better?

Again. Apologies for being smitten. I have been critical of Franzen in the past (Falling off the Freedom Train)and yes that isn't my favorite book and I had trouble with Strong Motion (second novel) which I intend to go back after once I am out of Big Book hell. But...The Corrections which I have thumbed and smudged with jelly, eggs, coffee, toast, milk...and carted around like a brick (it is at my elbow right now) pure brilliance in getting after the core of the American heart.

And so, yes. I am biased. I have read his other books of essays, The Discomfort Zone and How To Be Alone and they were very good too. Franzen is the bar. He would hate a review like this...too over the top. What can I say.

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" So I was really interested in the other essays which have not disappointed."

Maybe you should read Franzen a fourth time (eyeroll) to see the amazing things he does with commas.