The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History

The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History

Jonathan Franzen

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 0312426402

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

The Discomfort Zone is Jonathan Franzen's tale of growing up, squirming in his own über-sensitive skin, from a "small and fundamentally ridiculous person," into an adult with strong inconvenient passions. Whether he's writing about the explosive dynamics of a Christian youth fellowship in the 1970s, the effects of Kafka's fiction on his protracted quest to lose his virginity, or the web of connections between bird watching, his all-consuming marriage, and the problem of global warming, Franzen is always feelingly engaged with the world we live in now. The Discomfort Zone is a wise, funny, and gorgeously written self-portrait by one of America's finest writers.

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at Snoopy and asking, “Why aren’t you two ponies?” Snoopy, rolling his eyes, thinks: “I knew we’d get around to that.” Or Chapter 1, verses 26–32, of what I knew about the mysteries of etiquette: Linus is showing off his new wristwatch to everyone in the neighborhood. “New watch!” he says proudly to Snoopy, who, after a hesitation, licks it. Linus’s hair stands on end. “YOU LICKED MY WATCH!” he cries. “It’ll rust! It’ll turn green! He ruined it!” Snoopy is left looking mildly puzzled and

jahrelang, natürlich nutzt es sich ab, es wird schmutzig, es bricht in den Falten, es weitet sich aus wie Handschuhe, die man auf der Reise getragen hat. Das sind sparsame, einfache Leute; sie wechseln es nicht, sie lassen es nicht einmal reinigen.* But the sentence in Malte that became my motto for the semester was one I didn’t notice until Avery pointed it out to us. It’s spoken to Malte by a friend of his family, Abelone, when Malte is a little boy and is reading aloud thoughtlessly from

that her only concern is with the moral purity of her rooming house. To which K., through a chink in the door, bizarrely cries, “If you want to keep your rooming house clean, you’d better start by asking me to leave!” He shuts the door in Frau Grubach’s face, ignores her “faint knocking,” and proceeds to lie in ambush for Fräulein Bürstner. He has no particular desire for the girl—can’t even remember what she looks like. But the longer he waits for her, the angrier he gets. Suddenly it’s her

Around Christmastime, the money ran out altogether. We broke our leases and sold the furniture. I took the old car, she took the new laptop, I slept with other people. Unthinkable and horrible and ardently wished-for: our little planet was ruined. A STAPLE OF my family’s dinner-table conversation in the mid-seventies was the divorce and remarriage of my father’s boss at the railroad, Mr. German. Nobody of my parents’ generation in either of their extended families had ever been divorced, nor

sharks, sea monsters, pythons, cows, piranhas, penguins, and vampire bats. He was the perfect sunny egoist, starring in his ridiculous fantasies and basking in everyone’s attention. In a cartoon strip full of children, the dog was the character I recognized as a child. Tom and my father had been talking in the living room when I went up to bed. Now, at some late and even stuffier hour, after I’d put aside the Peanuts Treasury and fallen asleep, Tom burst into our bedroom. He was shouting

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