Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen is considered one of the great living novelists in the United States. (As an aside, all great novelists in the United States will forever be labeled as “one of” the best living novelists because, of course, Cormac McCarthy is still alive and while still breathing there is only room for one at the top.) So what makes a great novelist? There are many theories about this but my personal opinion is scope. A smaller, more intimate novel can of course be amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking, but a great novel (said in an Orson Welles voice) needs to be grand. It should encompass all of what living seems to be. Franzen, at his best, is a novelist of this ambition. He swings for the fences and goes for big themes, and I love it. I was a little disappointed by his last effort and hope that this new one (released Oct. 5) lives up to the grandeur of The Corrections and Freedom.
The Magician by Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín writes the way a person from Ireland talks. Now Colm Tóibín is Irish so this makes sense. A good Irish accent is one of this life’s great auditory pleasures. It makes me think of grand, passionate stories; epic tales of love and loss and beautiful sadness. Colm Tóibín writes this way. I was astounded by his novel Brooklyn. You should all read it. Imagine my delight when I learned that Tóibín’s (pronounced toh-BEEN) newest novel is about one of my favorite novelists, Thomas Mann. This is an unbelievable combination that I did not know I needed. But I do.
On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint by Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson is one of our finest essayists, a sublime writer. This volume is full of insightful, philosophical ruminations on all different kinds of freedom. Every time I read one of her books I am struck by just how smart she is. If you read a Maggie Nelson book, you will spend a few hours inside one of the finest minds we have.
When Nature Breaks the Law
by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is a national treasure. Each one of her books is a perfect jewel. She has the enviable gift of being able to take an obscure subject and make it utterly fascinating. I have read many of her books and can’t wait to get to this one. Jenifer Ross is 3/4ths of the way done and says it’s great, and if Jenifer Ross says it’s good you can take that to the Credit Union.