How to be Alone

by sam on 07/5/2005

Back when I was in law school, and the Corrections/Oprah controversy erupted, I was befuddled by the whole thing. The one result of my befuddlement? I never read the book (still haven’t), even though it was exactly the type of book I would normally at least make an effort to read.

But recently I picked up How to be Alone, a collection of non-fiction essays by Franzen, and it makes me want to go pick up his earlier work. Stories on the solitary nature of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, the isolation of crowds, even a crowd of like-minded political allies, the reclusive nature of writing, Franzen’s take on the whole Oprah thing (including a very funny description of the faux-documentary that they made him film for background before he got "disinvited" from the show), wondering whether books should be written more for the writers or for the audience, and an incredibly fascinating investigation of one solitary person’s attempt to reform the Chicago post office.

This is the first book of short essays that I’ve read in some time, and it was quite liberating. knowing that I could finish an individual story in a matter of a few subway rides, not having to worry that if I put the book down for a few days I would forget what I read and have to start over. I think The Corrections is definitely getting added to my wish list for after the move at the end of this month (I’ve committed to try not to buy anything else that I would have to pack before then, and besides, there are still about 12 other books on my shelf waiting to be read). Now I just have to pick a book short enough that I’ll be sure to finish it before the new Harry Potter gets delivered on the 16th.