Grist Talks to Jonathan Franzen

I have not yet picked up Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom, but it is getting rave reviews among Overbrook staff who have! Aside from being touted as a great novel with an engrossing story, Freedom is being praised for its merits as an honest and rousing profile of the contemporary environmentalist struggle. Franzen himself is an avid birder, and talks to Overbrook grantee Grist's Amanda Little about the inevitable conflict weathered by conservationists who live in contemporary society, yet rail against the negative impacts our lifestyles inflict on natural surroundings. Franzen tells Little of his own personal transformation from environmental cynic to optimistic lover of birds.

From the Grist interview:

A. I used to have a really angry, despairing sense that the world is screwed, that people have screwed the world, and so we should just let it all end. Let's have the great plague that will reduce the population by 90 percent, and let the land regenerate and nature catch its breath. I've moved away from that sort of deep-ecological extremism, which I found to be not personally tenable. It was time for me to stop thinking about apocalypse, time to move to New York City, time to start enjoying life. And from there I moved on to loving wild birds, which was a much more positive mode of engagement. I started to think, what can we do for wild birds right now? I don't want these particular species to disappear. So what can I do practically? If you're trying to save your child's life, you might make certain compromises that you would have found morally insupportable at a younger age. Love leads to pragmatism in a way that anger doesn't.

Click here to read the whole interview.

Happy holidays!