I just finished Franzen’s memoir, due out in September, and I must say that I was disappointed. This is not a traditional memoir, rather it’s collected essays, several of which have been in the New Yorker previously. Remember the article he wrote on Charles Schulz several years ago when Fantagraphics began reprinting all of the Peanuts? That’s in there as is the article on birding. Already I’ve read two of the six chapters in a slim, 197 page book.
Don’t get me wrong. I personally think Franzen is a great writer and that’s why I am disappointed—I wanted more. I loved the first essay ‘House for Sale’, which moves back and forth from today to his teenage years, where Franzen’s remembrance of his years in the Christian Fellowship made me squirm. The same with the following two essays. After that, the book loses steam, the essays lose their impact. I don’t know if Franzen just threw all of these together or what, but the lack of focus gives you an incomplete look at the author. Perhaps that’s what he wants, after the Oprah fiasco. I just hope his next book is stronger.