Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friendly Franzen

A few weeks ago I brought the latest Jonathan Franzen novel home from the library.  It sat unopened with my other books and papers and, after about a week, I took it back.  Just wasn't in the mood.  When I saw his name on an article in this week's New Yorker I started reading it immediately and am not sorry.

The piece is about his trip to Antarctica on a luxury expedition.  ("Don't call it a cruise," says the Captain.)  The Franzen who duked it out with Oprah over the "seriousness" of his work doesn't show up here.  This is an engaging travel story of fellow passengers, endless ice, rare birds, blackness and, of course, the penguins. "I had never before had the experience of beholding scenic beauty so dazzling that I couldn't process it, couldn't get it to register as something real."

With warmth and love he also tells the story of Uncle Walt, who provided the unexpected inheritance that financed the trip.  I remembered the time I received an unexpected inheritance.  I was a bewildered young mother.  I didn't sail away.

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