Troy Patterson
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

How to Be Alone

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Jonathan Franzen
genre
Nonfiction, Essays
We gave it a B+

The author of The Corrections returns from observing the pageantry of Inauguration Day 2001 to find himself in his shower, stripped ”of the long day’s costume…naked and alone.” Turning a review of pop-psych sex guides into a bit on language and eros, he locates ”the problem with relying on norms for comfort…. I want to be alone, but not too alone.” Many of these 13 essays smartly address the solitary self’s tricky interface with mass culture. Why be alone? For the pleasure of reading books such as this. Dock Franzen half a grade for including ”the Harper’s essay,” an oft-cited piece about his ambitions for the social novel or some such; despite its revision, it’s still lousy with what even its author calls ”tenuous logic.”

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