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The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History Hardcover – 2 Oct 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (2 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007234244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007234240
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,344,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Franzen was born in 1959 and graduated from Swarthmore College. He has lived in Boston, Spain, New York, Colorado Springs and Philadelphia. His other novels are 'The Twenty-Seventh City', 'Strong Motion', and 'The Corrections'. He is also the author of 'How To Be Alone', a collection of non-fiction, and 'The Discomfort Zone', a memoir. His fiction and non-fiction appear frequently in the 'New Yorker' and 'Harper's', and he was named one of the best American novelists under forty by 'Granta' and the 'New Yorker'. He lives in New York City.

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Review

'His discreetly devastating comic timing derives from the tension between the optimism of his ambition and the reality of the attempts to deal with the experiences that have marked his career as one America's best novelist and essayist.' Times

'Franzen's memoir is cleverly written and often fun to read…He's funny and self deprecating…' Sunday Telegraph

‘Wonderful and supremely personal…' Time Magazine

'Reading such honest, awkward, tender pieces as these, the socially isolated individual may feel that little bit less lonely.' New Statesman.

'The close of this book is almost miraculous; we are reminded that Franzen, at his best, can write like a dream.' FT Magazine

Book Description

BRILLIANT, AWARD-WINNING PERSONAL HISTORY FROM THE AUTHOR OF The Corrections


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
In his book How To Be Alone, Jonathan Franzen wrote about many things, including himself. In this new book, Franzen concentrates almost entirely on himself. While a lot of what he says is worth saying, the general trajectory is a kind of memoir - specifically a writer's memoir and since writers spend most of their time sitting in a room alone, writing, they don't have much of a claim to being unique, unusual or especially entertaining. Unfortunately, when he is writing about his upbringing, his friendships, his hobbies, etc., Franzen falls into the mildly interesting category.

In How To Be Alone Franzen wrote about things, people, cities, lives, in a way that made everything he told us about interesting - and often in a way that went beyond that and on into fascination. His piece about the Chicago postal service was a case in point. Who would have thought he could make it come alive, could make it absolutely riveting? Well he did. In this book he is interesting, full-stop. It just doesn't take off into the brilliance I had come to expect from How To Be Alone, unfortunately. Inevitably this is disappointing and makes me wish he'd written The Discomfort Zone first, I would definitely have read more of his work and would thus be just discovering How To Be Alone, and I'd be a lot happier. He is a brilliant writer - especially as a novelist. Let's hope this book means he's got intense self-absorption out of his system.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 17 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this books wholly enjoyable and not nearly long enough - except for the last chapter which major on birding.

This memoir in fact covers: the death of Franzen's mother and sale of the family home (Franzen gets this wrong); quarrels in the Franzen household and the career of Schulz, creator of Peanuts; the religious and personal development scene at Franzen's school; practical jokes at Franzen's school; Franzen's experience of German (in which he majored) and love life; Franzen's love life (continued) and his interest in the environment and in birding.

The most thought provoking section is about Schulz. Franzen thinks Schulz suffered because he was an artist, ie he was not an artist because he suffered. He could have toughed out a normal life, just as he did his military service. This is well worth pondering - as is the question how the impulse comes to people (like Franzen) to make other people laugh.

This memoir is both touching and comic. Strongly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sam J. Ruddock on 1 April 2007
Format: Paperback
The Discomfort Zone follows naturally from Jonathan Franzen's 2001 bestseller The Corrections. Sure, that was fiction and this is autobiography, but many of the themes and settings of everyday life remain the same. It chronicles the author's growth from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person" to the confidently insecure writer he has become. He casts his scope both inwards and out, linking his own life to the socio-political history of the last fifty years. His story is both personal and universal.

It is a good read, and what we are left with is a picture of everyday life in all its fabulous banality: a life which Franzen loves and hates in alternating measure but which is an inextricable part of himself and his fiction.
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Format: Paperback
"The Discomfort Zone" is an autobiographical essay collection - and memoir - from Jonathan Franzen that is among the most impressive examples of memoir writing that I've stumbled upon lately. Readers will get a most vivid and compelling portrait of Franzen - the person and the writer - and one that may illuminate their subsequent reading of his great novels. But this is an essay collection that is somewhat nonlinear with respect to time, opening and closing with important events in his adulthood. Surprisingly for me, given the realism of his current fiction, Franzen expresses ample admiration for the fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein, invoking them repeatedly in his essay collection. Franzen renders a most affectionate portrait of his late mother and his family's former residence in Webster Groves, a financially elite suburb of Saint Louis, in the opening essay "House for Sale". He recounts his childhood love for comics, and especially, "The Peanuts" comic strip, in "Two Ponies", touching upon his childhood relationship with his older brother Tom and their father. "Then Joy Breaks Through" describes his membership in a youth Christian fellowship, fondly recalling it as a sanctuary in an otherwise difficult adolescence that will resonate with many readers. Among the most memorable essays is the concluding one, "My Bird Problem", in which he compares and contrasts his love of birding with his efforts at saving his marriage and then, later, finally finding romantic bliss with a much younger woman from California. Franzen's simple, unadorned, prose shines through in each of the essays, reminding readers of his greatest works in fiction. Without question, "The Discomfort Zone" is an important addition to the memoir of genre, worthy of recognition as among its best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pauline Butcher Bird on 29 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was disappointed with this memoir because Jonathan Franzen spent too long on teenage escapades which gave no insight into his development, they were just hi-jink events. Compare JM Coetzee's 'Youth' and 'Boyhood' which superbly set out HIS mental torment and changes while growing up. The best part in this book was the description of his marriage and perhaps it's worth buying just for that.
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