The author presents his 1996 work, "The Harper's Essay," offering additional writings that consider a central theme of the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the increasing persistence of loneliness in postmodern America.
Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was the best-loved and most-written-about novel of 2001. Now in How to be Alone, discover the personal narratives and the dead-on reportage that earned Franzen a wide readership before the success of The Corrections. The audiobook How to be Alone features Franzen's reading of a moving narrative of his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease (which won a National Magazine Award and has been reprinted around the world). Although his essays range from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each essay wrestles with essential themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civic life and private dignity, and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Here, in 14 essays, are 14 fresh answers to the question of how to be alone in a noisy and distracting mass culture. These essays show the wry distrust of the claims of technology and psychology, the love-hate relationship with consumerism, and the subversive belief in the tragic shape of the individual life that help make Franzen one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.