Episode 12: Farther Away

As we enter the home stretch, novelist Gabriel Roth joins us to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s second essay collection, Farther Away, which was published in 2012. A bit of a grab bag, Farther Away consists of twenty essays about a host of random subjects: the history of the novel, environmental degradation, Alice Munro, New York, the word then, among many others. But mostly, it’s centered on two subjects. One is the recent suicide of Franzen’s friend David Foster Wallace, which haunts the most recent essays. And the other is Franzen’s growing obsession with birds, which permeates nearly every paragraph in this pretty long book. Even if you know that Franzen loves birds—and you surely do—you’re not prepared for just how much bird stuff is in Farther Away.

Discussed in this episode: Does this contain Franzen’s worst piece of writing ever? Is it normal to have a crush on your cousin? And just what is it with Franzen and the birds, anyway?

About Mr. Difficult

How did Jonathan Franzen become America’s most divisive novelist? Is he even good? And what’s the deal with his relationship with birds, anyway? Mr. Difficult is a podcast devoted to exploring these and many other questions related to this great American novelist. (Or is it the great American novelist?) Join co-hosts Erin Somers and Alex Shephard and producer Eric Jett as they discuss each of Franzen’s six novels, as well as his nonfiction.