The Discomfort Zone

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen, bestselling author of ‘Freedom’ and the highly acclaimed ‘The Corrections’, arrived late, and last, in a family of boys in Webster Groves, Missouri. ‘The Discomfort Zone’ is his intimate memoir of his growth from a ‘small and fundamentally ridiculous person,’ through an adolescence both excruciating and strangely happy, into an adult with embarrassing and unexpected passions. It’s also a portrait of a middle-class family weathering the turbulence of the 1970s, and a vivid personal insight into the decades in which America took an angry turn away from its mid-century ideals.

He tells of the effects of Kafka’s fiction on Franzen’s protracted quest to lose his virginity, the elaborate pranks that he and his friends orchestrated from the roof of his high school, his self-inflicted travails in selling his mother’s house after her death, the web of connections between his all-consuming marriage, the problem of global warming, and the life lessons to be learned in watching birds.

Sparkling, daring and arrestingly honest, ‘The Discomfort Zone’ is warmed by the same combination of comic scrutiny and unqualified affection that characterize Franzen’s fiction. It narrates the formation of a unique mind and heart in the crucible of an everyday American family.

Reviews of The Discomfort Zone

  • ‘His discreetly devastating comic timing derives from the tension between the optimism of his ambition and the reality of the attempts to deal with the experiences that have marked his career as one America’s best novelist and essayist.’ Times

    ‘Franzen’s memoir is cleverly written and often fun to read…He’s funny and self deprecating…’ Sunday Telegraph

    ‘Wonderful and supremely personal…’ Time Magazine

    ‘Reading such honest, awkward, tender pieces as these, the socially isolated individual may feel that little bit less lonely.’ New Statesman.

    ‘The close of this book is almost miraculous; we are reminded that Franzen, at his best, can write like a dream.’ FT Magazine