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The End of the End of the Earth: Essays

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  302 ratings  ·  61 reviews
A sharp and provocative new essay collection from the award-winning author of Freedom and The Corrections

The essayist, Jonathan Franzen writes, is like “a fire-fighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames of shame, is to run straight into them.” For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second l
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sigh. Franzen can write. He is intelligent. His nonfiction is just not my cup of tea. There is an authorial distance I find offputting but I understand why he might write with that distance. As a whole, the collection is uneven. There is a set of rules for the novelist that feels like he jotted some ideas on a napkin and included them in the book. The essay on Edith Wharton.... yikes. He spends quite some time discussing that she was unattractive and like, has he seen male writers throughout his ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
”If you stand in a forest in Southeast Asia, you may hear and then begin to feel, in your chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounds meteorological, but it’s the wingbeats of Great Hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They have massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they look like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clamber around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, you may find yourself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It has nothing to do ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Before you denigrate yourself for picking up a collection of essays instead of a novel, Franzen makes a brazen argument early on in "The End of the End of the Earth" for its importance (the essay's) in our lives & in Lit-Land as a whole. An essay is a mirror to the writer, to society, to the reader. He gives it a valid worth; these little nuggins are all worth their weight in gold.

Please go read "The Corrections." & yeah even "Freedom" has its good parts. But essays? Like what personal s
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
Birds, birds, birds, birds, birds, and more birds - listen to the cover, not the blurb: Most of these texts deal with the before-mentioned flying animals, how they are threatened, what it means to Franzen to be a birdwatcher, and why birds are generally awesome. In my opinion, Franzen is also generally awesome, but the bird overload in this essay collection was really testing my patience. There is nothing wrong with writing about your favorite animal, but the book marketing appears to make an ef ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: yuck
I don't feel the need to read every essay in this collection, but I do feel the need to defend Edith Wharton's honor. I also have a personal anecdote about running into Franzen...or Franzen running into me.

In 2012, which was the 150th anniversary of Wharton's birth, Franzen wrote a piece about her for The New Yorker entitled "A Rooting Interest." For what it's worth, I am a Wharton fanatic. I wrote my MA thesis on her, I've read almost every secondary source about her that was published before
Kasa Cotugno
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
By any measure, Jonathan Franzen is a fortunate man. For one thing, he has a God-given talent for writing (both fiction and non-). He has not been without controversy, but has managed to rise above it and when he churns out one of his lengthy, involving novels every seven years or so, is rewarded with a loyal readership. Another way in which he is lucky is that he has an all consuming passion -- he loves birds. Anyone favored with such an interest can be considered lucky. Having something to aim ...more
Shannon A
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was intrigued by the first page;Shared in these essays are the realities we are afraid to voice or even admit silently. The truths gathered here are an intelligent and raw meditation on the various and sundry anxieties that define our collective human guilt.
Arybo ✨
First time with Jonathan Franzen - or an Antarctica Journey

I've just finished this book and I don't know what to say. This was a really interesting read. I've never read a book from this famous author, I didn't know what to expect, and I was surprised. His ideas are clear as crystals and every word expresses its meaning in full power. There are ironic and serious words, dreaming and actual phrases. It was sometimes as if I was missing something, maybe because I'm not a fan of birdwatching. Ther
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reading this book was a bit like being chained to a radiator for 5 hours while an old eccentric yells at you about birds.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
THE END OF THE END OF THE EARTH. (2018). Jonathan Franzen. ***.
This is a collection of 17 essays by this author – most dealing with his take on global warming and climate change. His plane of reference is his passion for birding. He really takes his hobby seriously, and takes the effects of these changes even more seriously. I’m not sure he cares much about the effects of these changes on humans…he is religious about his birds though. There were a couple of essays (in fact, only two) that dealt
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
“We spend our days reading, on screens, stuff we’d never bother reading in a printed book, and bitch about how busy we are.”

The one thing to say about this book is that there is a lot about bird watching, so it is a treat for ornithologists, but maybe not for those, who aren’t one for our feathered friends. Franzen gets around a bit, whether chasing down the Painted Buntings of Texas, the Bee Hummingbirds in Cuba, or Rainbow Lorikeets in Australia and Emperor Penguins in Antarctica.

“The radical
Keith Taylor
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like Franzen's essays, and I readily admit that it might be because so many of them are about birds, birding, or are reflections that come from the travel and time birding demands. I share Franzen's passion, even if time and the lack of money haven't allowed me to share the depths of his compulsion. Perhaps he is a little less original or startling on the general ecological collapse, but, really, how can any of us be? I usually enjoy his thoughts on writers, too, although they don't engage me ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
I know Mr. Franzen is polarizing at best and infuriating to many, but the man can write, and he loves birds. I enjoyed this collection of essays, many of which were about birds or birding, many of which touched on the all-too-real issue of climate change and how it is affecting the world-- people and places outside the US (gasp) and species other than humans (gasp). Other essays poignantly introduced us to family members, introspectively talked about 9/11, and showed proper respect for William V ...more
Pyramids Ubiquitous
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this. It seemed like I was having a conversation with the author. Franzen is clearly very passionate about each thing he presents in these diary-style essays, and whether or not I agree with some of his inclinations it makes for an engaging and casual read.
Sophie Davidson
Skipped A LOT of bird content
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I admire Franzen’s writing and love that it has me grabbing for the dictionary. I was especially thrilled to discover that Franzen’s great love is birds. At least half the essays were bird-related: birding trips to every continent, eco-tourism, bird lists, the National Audubon Society, effects of hunting and fishing, climate change (addressed with considerable intelligence) and conservation. All of great interest to me, which is why I finished the book in one day.

I note that Roxane Gay gave this
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent essays that show a deep appreciation of the natural world. A real treat for birders.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Whatever your opinion of Franzen's writing, this isn't going to change it.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Top-line...this is a must read.

Franzen demonstrates his command of language and uses it to explain the socio-political zeitgeist of our time, choosing to focus his discussion on climate change and its associative effects via a reflective essay collection. He relies some on essays he's published in The New Yorker, but adapts them to be instructive to his lines of thought. His use of ornithology and general Audobon knowledge serves as distractors for a layman who doesn't understand what Franzen's
Jeff Zell
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this collection of essays. My two favorites are "Why Birds Matter" and "The End of the End of the Earth." In "Why Birds Matter" Franzen makes the point that the survival or the slow erasure of birds is an indication of environmental health. "The End of the End" is about his trip to Antarctica and his sighting of Emperor Penguins. Many, but not all, of these essays are concerned about the disappearance of animal species and climate change. He is frustrated by his inability to create a l ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
De uma forma geral, como o próprio género indica - Ensaios - é um livro sobre assuntos que tocam directamente Jonathan Franzen. Para mim, um grande autor (Liberdade, Correcções e Purity) foi o que já li. Além do visionamento do filme Chasing Ice, com seu argumento.
A maior parte do livro dedica-se às questões ambientais e à (falta) de mecanismos que parecem impedir um galopante avanço das alterações climáticas. Muito mais acelerado do que os mais pessimistas previram há 10 anos (Uma Verdade Incon
Mike Smith
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I like Franzen's writing style and his narrative voice in this collection of essays that span at least a couple of decades. They're undated, but at least one was written just after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Franzen writes about writing and literature, about birds (he's an avid birder and travels the worlds to add new species to his life list), and some about his own personal history. Woven into many essays are also thoughts on global warming. Franzen apparently received much crit ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Franzen is a very talented writer and a trenchant thinker also. He is also an avid bird watcher and there are probably too many essays about his passion for journeying to exotic locales to observe rare species. I give him credit for his fanatical passion and may now even understand it a bit. There is also a lot of writing about climate change and the environment. I am certainly not a climate change denier but more of a skeptic about what anyone can really do about it. Franzen is also skeptical a ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sometimes it is more enjoyable to read an author's essays than their literary fiction. In the former case, you don't really need to think about what the author is trying to convey; they just tell you.

Jonathan Franzen is the prototypical ostentatious and literary white male. And while that's generated a certain amount of backlash for him over the years -- sometimes deservedly so -- there is always enough humanity in his writing that keeps me coming back. I enjoy reading Franzen because I enjoy w
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebk, dc
Due to my total disinterest in Ornithology, I found this book boring even if I usually love Franzen also when he doesn't write fiction. There a couple of essay that I liked a lot but Italians killing birds in Albany are not to my liking. I loved the story of the South Pole journey and the one about Edith Wharton, all the rest are debatable.

Forse per via del mio totale disinteresse nei confronti dell'ornitologia, ho trovato questo libro piuttosto noioso, anche se di solito Franzen mi piace molto,
Alex Yard
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
My fancy formal review appears on RunSpotRun, but if you'd like a brief summary:

This was disappointing, and make no mistake, I love me my Franzen, both fiction and non fiction, but I'm not going to lie and say this was great just out of loyalty. This essay collection went way to far writing about the topic of birds, way more than I would ever need that it's just irritating at this point. He also succumbs to the feeling of "ahh there's so much pressure to have a good time and have memorable exper
Raksha Vasudevan
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Franzen is an excellent essay writer on a wide range of subjects: birds, romantic relationships, friendships, parents, penguins, you-name-it. He's ruthless and kind with both himself and our species. Without lecturing, he also educates the reader on climate change and birds - subjects that may sound dull to some but are rendered fascinating by his pen. My only critique is that some of the essays are too bird-centered to be of general interest - but perhaps he doesn't care about winning general a ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Franzen is no question an excellent writer. There is also no question that he loves - and I mean LOVES birds. He also knows a lot about birds, and now after reading this book of essays that are primarily about birds in some way or another - I know a lot more than I used to about birds. And that's kind of cool. The bulk of these essays are interesting, some are dull or self-righteous and others don't feel cohesive but all of them are well written.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's hard to put down a Jonathan Frantzen book. The wonderful prose, the probing curiosity, and the outsider-looking-in perspective make them fascinating. In this book, being a birder helps to appreciate his chapters about birds and their conservation. Frantzen has a tendency to go negative, but he resolves that with inspiring descriptions of his travels, particularly Antarctica. The book is an odd mix of essays but definitely a good, thought-provoking, perceptive read.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For now--I will simply say that this is a 5-star+ book. I am a long-time admirer of Franzen's work, beginning with his essay collection How to Be Alone. This book was a Christmas gift, and the book I thought I'd ring in 2019 with, but I couldn't wait to get started, and once started, I couldn't quit until I'd finished. So much to say but it's 10:48 p.m., so I'll be back with more later.
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Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by FSG. His fourth novel, Freedom, was published in the fall of 2010.

Franzen's other honors include a 1988 Whiting Writers' Award, Granta's Best Of Young Ameri
“Kierkegaard, in 'Either/Or,' makes fun of the 'busy man' for whom busyness is a way of avoiding an honest self-reckoning. You might wake up in the middle of the night and realize that you're lonely in your marriage, or that you need to think about what your level of consumption is doing to the planet, but the next day you have a million little things to do, and the day after that you have another million things. As long as there's no end of little things, you never have to stop and confront the bigger questions. Writing or reading an essay isn't the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way. And if you consider how laughably unbusy Kierkegaard's Copenhagen was, compared with our own age, those subjective tweets and hasty blog posts don't seem so essayistic. They seem more like means of avoiding what a real essay might force on us. We spend our days reading, on screens, stuff we'd never bother reading in a printed book, and bitch about how busy we are.” 0 likes
“The thing about games is that you don't want to look too closely at why you're playing them. A great yawning emptiness underlies them, a close relative of the nothingness that lies beneath the surface of our busy lives.” 0 likes
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