NYT Book Review. I assume it's a preface to the new edition of the book.
I first came across Franzen through a long rant of an essay about novel writing in the late stages of the twentieth century ( "Perchance to Dream", Harper's, April, 1996, for those who have access to it), so I actually know him first as a brilliant essayist and only later as a wonderful novelist. It's not easy wearing both these hats so well, but I sincerely believe he does.
I first learned of Stead's The Man Who Loved Children many years ago when I was either just going into college or in some summer hiatus in between. As Franzen says in his article, it has never been widely adopted in college courses, and I am quite sure that it was through some extracurricular reading that I learned of it and not in the classroom. It's actually a book I've heard endorsed many times over the years and as Franzen says himself, if an intelligent introductory essay by Randall Jarrell in a previous edition at a much more opportune moment in literary history hasn't put it over the top into the classics category, it is probably destined to its outsider status.
I'll admit to having started it once or twice. (Actually, I suddenly remembered that the first reference was a New Yorker article, because I remember quite clearly that there were quotes that I didn't understand the importance of. I was not dissuaded, because I have rarely if ever been wowed by quotes in the New Yorker in reviews. I'm a bit quote deaf, I think.) I don't think that at the first stab, I was really old enough to appreciate Stead's effort, but Franzen's essay makes me think I would like it. A lot.
Does this mean I'm finally going to get around to tackling it? I would like to say definitely, but I don't know. I'll get back to you on that one.
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