The End of the End of the Earth

Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-14793-8
A compulsive need to find order, and a love of birding, represent two of the central threads of this stimulating collection of previously published essays from novelist Franzen (Purity). In the opening essay, “The Essay in Dark Times,” Franzen self-identifies as “what people in the world of birding call a lister,” which makes him “morally inferior to birders who bird exclusively for the joy of it.” Throughout the essays that follow, Franzen muses about writing, Edith Wharton, climate change, Antarctica, the photographs of Sarah Stolfa, and birds, always birds. Some of his opinions have already stoked controversy: In “A Rooting Interest,” he comments on Wharton’s privileged position amid New York City’s social elite, and observes she had “one potentially redeeming disadvantage: she wasn’t pretty.” In “Save What You Love,” he takes the Audubon Society to task for naming climate change as the greatest threat to birds, when “no individual bird death can be definitively attributed” to it, while statistics indicate that picture windows and outdoor cats kill three billion birds annually. Whether observing the eerie beauty of Antarctica (“far from having melted,” he reports) or dispensing “Ten Rules for the Novelist,” Franzen makes for an entertaining, sometimes prickly, but always quotable companion. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2018
Release date: 11/13/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-385-69250-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-30052-2
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