The Discomfort Zone - Personal History

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2007, 12:00am

The Discomfort Zone - Personal History

by Jonathan Franzen

Harper Perennial, HK$144

Following the acclaim accorded The Corrections in 2001, Jonathan Franzen, who famously irked Oprah Winfrey by declaring he was about 'high literature' and was not seeking her book club audience, has done little to substantiate that status. The Discomfort Zone is a collection of six not particularly good essays, four previously published by The New Yorker. Populist critics, no doubt awed by his 'serious' first novel - it can be read as a commentary on contemporary middle America - have been generous. Time magazine called this collection 'wonderful and supremely personal'. However, the mighty Michiko Kakutani at The New York Times deemed it 'an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant, pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed'. As Winfrey might say, 'You go, girl.' Franzen bombed in the blogosphere, too, where declares The Discomfort Zone 'a medley of hyper-neurotic essays that are embarrassing as hell to read', the point being that, after five years, this is the best he can come up with? This book is strictly for Franzen fans and may be ignored by everyone else.