A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
The Discomfort Zone is Jonathan Franzen's tale of growing up, squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person," into an adult with strong inconvenient passions. Whether he's writing about 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, or the web of connections between bird watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelingly engaged with the world we live in now. The Discomfort Zone is a wise, funny, and gorgeously written self-portrait by one of America's finest writers.
National Book Award winner Franzen's first foray into memoir begins and ends with his mother's death in Franzen's adulthood. In between, he takes a sarcastic, humorous and intimate look at the painful awkwardness of adolescence. As a young observer rather than a participant, Franzen offers a fresh take on the sometimes tumultuous, sometimes uneventful America of the 1960s and '70s. A not very popular, bookish kid, Franzen (The Corrections) and his high school buddies, in one of the book's most memorable episodes, attempt to loop a tire, ring-toss style, over their school's 40-foot flag pole as part of a series of flailing pranks. Franzen watches his older brother storm out of the house toward a wayward hippe life, while he ultimately follows along his father's straight-and-narrow path. Franzen traces back to his teenage years the roots of his enduring trouble with women, his pursuit of a precarious career as a writer and his recent life-affirming obsession with bird-watching. While Franzen's family was unmarked by significant tragedy, the common yet painful contradictions of growing up are at the heart of this wonderful book (parts of which appeared in the New Yorker): "You're miserable and ashamed if you don't believe your adolescent troubles matter, but you're stupid if you do."
A humorous memoir of small-town life in middle America
Franzen's skill with words shines through in this intimate, humorous memoir written about his life before "making it" as a writer. His self-deprecating, awkward characterization of himself as a brainiac "50-year-old" child holds appeal, but some of the best moments are when Franzen shares the pranks he and his high school friends played in their secret society. A well-written piece by a now-very-popular writer. A very good read!