The Discomfort Zone
A Personal HistoryBook - 2006 | 1st ed.
As Jonathan Franzen tells it, he was the kind of boy who was afraid of spiders,school dances, urinals, music teachers, boomerangs, popular girls--and his parents.He had nothing against geeky kids except a desperate fear of being taken forone of them, a fate which would result in instant Social Death. Approachingpuberty the way a fraud artist confronts a particularly tough scam, he pretended tobe a kid who naturally said "shit" and who didn't enjoy calculations on his new six functionTexas Instrument calculator.
The Discomfort Zone is Franzen'stale of growing up squirming in his own über-sensitive skin. It's a multi-layeredtour de force that daringly cascades from single moments into a domino-like discourseof sometimes truculent, sometimes piercing, always entertaining investigationand insight. Whether he's writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christianyouth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafka's fiction on his own protractedquest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between birdwatching, hisall-consuming marriage and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelinglyengaged with the world we live in now. Franzen's personal history of a Midwesternyouth and New York adulthood is warmed by the same blend of comic scrutinyand affection that characterize his fiction; the result is an arresting portrait of aman, his family and his time.
From the critics
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I wanted to live in a "Peanuts"world where rage was funny and insecurity was lovable. The littlest kid in my "Peanuts" books, Sally Brown, grew older for a while and then hit a glass ceiling and went no further. I wanted everyone in my family to get along and nothing to change; but suddenly, after Tom ran away, it was as if the five of us looked around, asked why we should be spending time together, and failed to come up with a good answer. p.90
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