Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage is the first critical biography of one of today's most important velists. Drawing on unpublished emails and both published and private interviews, Philip Weinstein conveys the feel and heft of Franzen's voice as he ponders the purposes and problems of his life and art, from his earliest fiction to his most recent vel, Purity. Franzen's work raises major questions about the possibilities of contemporary fiction: how does one appeal to a wide audience of mainstream readers, on the one hand, while persuading conisseurs, on the other, that one's fiction has staying power, is high art? More acutely, how did Franzen move from the rage that animates his first two vels to the more generous comic stance of the later vels on which his reputation rests? Wrestling with these questions, Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage unpacks the becoming of Franzen as a person and a writer-from his ultra-sensitive Midwestern childhood, through his heady years at Swarthmore College, his marriage, and the alienating decade of the 1990s, up to his spectacular ascent and assimilation into pop culture as one of the literary figures of his generation. Weinstein joins biography and criticism in ways that fully respect their differences, but that also grant that the work comes, however unpredictably, out of the life.
Philip Weinstein is the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College, USA. The recipient of several NEH Fellowships and an ACLS Fellowship, and past President of the Faulkner Society, Weinstein has written books that range from James to Faulkner and Morrison (in American literature), and from Dickens through Joyce (in British literature). These include Faulkner's Subject: A Cosmos No One Owns (1992), What Else But Love? The Ordeal of Race in Faulkner and Morrison (1996), Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction (2005). Weinstein's Becoming Faulkner (2010) was the recipient of the Hugh Holman Award for the best book written on Southern Literature. He is also the editor of The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner (1995).