Books: Total Eclipse of the Heart

In 13 smart essays, Jonathan Franzen mourns the end of serious reading, among other things

During the worst of his falling out last year with Oprah Winfrey, it was hard to tell that Jonathan Franzen is one of the most nuanced minds at work in the dwindling republic of letters. It's easy to tell that from How to Be Alone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 278 pages), a collection of lucid, saturnine essays that have appeared in various magazines since 1994. Franzen is not the first serious writer to mourn the slow death of serious reading or to be worried about the decay of the moral imagination, each a continuing subtheme in a book that lights upon...

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