Monday, October 18, 2010

Franzen's Favorite Fiction

Via Mark Athitakis, I find that Oprah has induced Jonathan Franzen to list his favorite works of fiction. Some are a little surprising (though others aren't), so I thought I'd run the list (alpha by author) here for your comments:

  • Continental Drift, Russell Banks
  • Seize the Day, Saul Bellow
  • The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
  • The Chaneysville Incident, David Bradley
  • Ms. Hempel Chronicles, by Sarah Shun Lien Bynum
  • Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, Evan S. Connell
  • White Noise, Don DeLillo
  • The End of Vandalism, Tom Drury
  • The Hamlet, William Faulkner
  • Desperate Characters, Paula Fox
  • Something Happened, Joseph Heller
  • Jesus' Son and Angels, Denis Johnson
  • Corregidora, Gayl Jones
  • Independent People, Halldor Laxness
  • The Assistant, Bernard Malamud
  • A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
  • Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  • The Beggar Maid; Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage; Runaway, Alice Munro
  • A Personal Matter, Kenzaburo Oe
  • Eustace Chisholm and the Works, James Purdy
  • Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
  • In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders
  • Enemies: A Love Story and The Family Moskat, Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • The Greenlanders; The Age of Grief; Ordinary Love and Good Will, Jane Smiley
  • Endless Love, Scott Spencer
  • The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
  • Taking Care, Joy Williams


Tom Elrod said...

Was this supposed to be a list of favorite contemporary fiction works? Because if not then Franzen doesn't seem much interested in anything written before World War II.

Adam Kelly said...

I'd guess this was meant to be a list of contemporary fiction. Here's the list of all-time favourites that Franzen produced for Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, from 2007:

1. The Brothers Karamazov
2. War and Peace
3. The Trial
4. In Search of Lost Time
5. The Great Gatsby
6. Absolom, Absolom!
7. The Charterhous of Parma
8. Lolita
9. The Man Who Loved Children
10. Independent People

Slightly more canonical, I'm sure you'll agree!

Andrew Seal said...

I agree. It's probably just a contemporary fiction list--the only three pre-1945 novels, I believe, are Independent People, The Hamlet, and The Man Who Loved Children, and Independent People's first English printing was actually post-war.
It's interesting that Franzen chose a different Faulkner novel for this list than he did for the "all-time" list.

Adam Kelly said...

The one that surprises me the most is Midnight's Children. I wouldn't expect Franzen to go for a showy narrative voice like that.

Also a surprise that he didn't list anything by his old friend Dave Wallace. He has offered lavishly descriptive praise of Wallace's work elsewhere.

Dennis Abrams said...

I was glad to see "Endless Love" included on his list. It is, I think, a fairly amazing novel, one whose reputation has been unfairly damaged by the horrible movie it inspired.

Shelby Davis said...

Pleased to see /White Noise/ on the list. The whole time I was reading it (this summer, before Freedom came out), I kept thinking that Franzen /must/ have had it in the back of his mind while writing /The Corrections/--but I couldn't find anything in his essays to back this up.

Adam Kelly said...


In his excellent book _Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism_, Stephen Burn demonstrates convincingly that White Noise is a big influence on The Corrections, so you're spot on with that observation.

Shelby Davis said...

Thanks for the lead, Adam! Love to read it...

whh said...

there seems to be very few books written in languages other than english, in the list of contemporary fiction... although this might have something to do with the context, given that the second list that adam kelly put up is a little more 'worldly'.

by the way, good blog.

Ben said...

Every writer loves White Noise.

It's amazing.