Jonathan Franzen and the Book Everyone’s Talking About

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Jonathan Franzen (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Jonathan Franzen (Farrar Straus Giroux)

“There can be a soothing pleasure in watching someone juggle three balls really well, but I think most of us would agree that it’s more fun, and certainly more impressive, to watch someone juggle 10 balls. Especially when eight of those balls are on fire, and three balls are swapped out for a butcher knives, and the last one turns into a chainsaw. That’s when you can’t help but marvel, How is he doing that? That’s how I felt reading Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity. I kept stopping to wonder, How?” — Ann Patchett

If you’ve ever wondered how (or why or what) about Franzen’s books, now’s your chance to find out firsthand. Franzen will visit Nashville to read and sign Purity on Wednesday, September 23. He’ll speak at 6:15 p.m. at the Ingram Hall at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University as part of the Salon@615 series — our collaboration with Humanities Tennessee and the Nashville Public Library and Foundation. 

Fans of The Corrections and Freedom will thrill to immerse themselves in Franzen’s writing again and to discover how this latest novel differs from its predecessors. Ann summarizes the plot:

All members of our First Editions Club receive a hardcover first edition, signed by the author.
All members of our First Editions Club receive a hardcover first edition, signed by the author.

“The book is both wildly ambitious and peacefully capable . . . Purity, also known as Pip, is a self-destructing girl in San Francisco who doesn’t know her own identity, which her crazy hermit of a mother explains is for her own safety. For some other writer, the mystery of Pip would be enough storyline for an entire novel, but not Franzen. He’s got Andreas Wolf in East Berlin, a Julian Assange-like character who has so many secrets he devotes his life to outing other people’s secrets, though he’s got to do it while hiding in the jungles of South America. Then we have Tom and Leila in Chicago who are revealing secrets by the more traditional means of journalism. They, of course, have their own troubled histories. With all the story lines established, Franzen begins to juggle, looping the characters in and out of one another’s lives in ways you’ll never see coming.”

Purity is one of the most anticipated new works of fiction this year, and Nashville readers are curious about it. We hope you’ll come be a part of this literary conversation yourself!

Details and ticketing: This is a Salon@615 Special Edition, meaning it is a paid, ticketed event, and you must purchase a ticket to attend. Each ticket grants one person entry to the event, and all attendees will receive a copy of the book at the event as well — it’s included with the price of admission! (Please note, the books for attendees will only be available for pickup at the event.) Purchase tickets via the Salon@615 website. Seating is limited, so we recommend purchasing advanced tickets, as on-site tickets may not be available

(PS: Knowing that Franzen is an enthusiastic birder, we asked him if there were any birds he hoped to spot here in Tennessee. He said, “No regularly occurring species, unless Tennessee has Swainson’s Warbler.” We don’t know a thing about Swainson’s Warbler — we do books, not birds — but we did recommend he cast his gaze upon some hot chicken while he’s here.)