8 episodes

A podcast about Jonathan Franzen

Mr. Difficult Mr. Difficult

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 37 Ratings

A podcast about Jonathan Franzen

    Episode 8: Crossroads (Part 2)

    Episode 8: Crossroads (Part 2)

    In part two of our conversation about Crossroads, we’re joined by New York Times national correspondent Ruth Graham to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s depiction of faith and Christianity, the novel’s titular youth group, and where we think the trilogy is headed.

    • 52 min
    Episode 7: Crossroads (Part 1)

    Episode 7: Crossroads (Part 1)

    In this episode, Erin, Alex, and Eric are joined by critic Merve Emre and poet Elisa Gabbert to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s sixth novel, Crossroads. The first in a planned trilogy titled The Key to All Mythologies, it represents perhaps Franzen’s most dramatic left-turn yet. After the frenzied mess of Purity, here is a tightly controlled novel focused intently on one midwestern family over (mostly) four months in late-1971 and early-1972. But is it too controlled? Is this Franzen’s least funny book yet? How effective is Franzen’s exploration of American Christianity? And, perhaps most importantly, what’s the deal with Judson?

    • 53 min
    Episode 6: Purity

    Episode 6: Purity

    In this episode, Erin, Alex, and Eric are joined by novelist Rumaan Alam to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s fifth novel, Purity. Everyone agrees that this book is an insane mess, but this episode dares to ask: Is it also a good book? And—even bolder—does he actually get the internet right? Also discussed: the book’s weird politics, Andreas Wolf’s connections to Julian Assange and Jeffrey Epstein, and whether this is Jonathan Franzen’s study abroad novel.

    • 45 min
    Episode 5: Freedom

    Episode 5: Freedom

    In this episode, Erin, Alex, and Eric are joined by novelist Jacob Bacharach to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s fourth novel, Freedom. Perhaps Franzen’s angriest book, it is in some ways a step forward—particularly with regards to the character of Patty—and in other ways a step back toward his messier and more self-indulgent earlier work. We discuss what works and (mostly) what doesn’t in Franzen’s most Franzen-y book.

    Outro music: “Insanely Happy” by the Traumatics.

    The Traumatics

    Walnut Surprise

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Episode 4: The Corrections Pilot

    Episode 4: The Corrections Pilot

    In 2012, Noah Baumbach and Jonathan Franzen teamed up to work on a television adaptation of Franzen's breakthrough novel The Corrections for HBO. Starring Ewen McGregor, Dianne Wiest, Chris Cooper, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the resulting pilot was something of a disaster and was quietly shelved by the network. Filming was never completed, it also never aired, and few people who weren't involved in its production have seen it.

    But we have! In this episode, Erin, Alex, and Eric are joined by Variety TV Critic Daniel D'Addario to discuss what works and what doesn't in this strange relic of the early years of "peak TV."

    • 46 min
    Episode 3: The Corrections

    Episode 3: The Corrections

    In this episode, Erin, Alex, and Eric are joined by the novelist Emily Gould to discuss Jonathan Franzen’s third novel—and Mr. Difficult-consensus best book—The Corrections. In the novel, published days before 9/11, Franzen finally puts it all together: a biting satire of the 1990s, the book is, at heart, a funny, moving, and sometimes scabrous account of a family in turmoil at the turn of the century.

    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
37 Ratings

37 Ratings

Doug Seibold ,

Loving This

Enjoying this a lot. Hope they eventually get to his nonfiction books as well.

Guy Gallo ,

A Lot of Upspeak & Vocal Fry

Lots of upspeak and vocal fry from hosts and guests. But … that is to be expected from the lone podcast on Jonny boy.

TAlston91 ,

Worth a listen

A good listen but at various points very pretentious.

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