Rick & Jonathan

Posted by on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 4:29 PM

Not everybody likes to read essays. Give me a book of good essays and I am so happy!  My reading pleasure these days comes from two books of literary essays by writers who are skillful, graceful, and, of course, interesting.

On Celestial Music :and Other Adventures in Listening by Rick Moody gives thoughtful attention to an eclectic array of musical genres. Moody is an acclaimed novelist and here he shows off his writing chops, as he weaves his personal stuff into the passionate and humorous insights about his relationship with music. Moody has a band and a couple of albums ( his group is the Wingdale Community Singers,) but his essays are mostly about listening and connecting , whether it's evangelistic rock, R&B, jazz, or classical. Music moves him and if music is an important part of your life, Moody's heartfelt essays will move you too.

Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen covers a range of topics. I love both his sometimes-stinging honesty and his beautiful writing. HIs graduation address to Kenyon College sets the "sexy" gadgets of technology in contrast to real life relationships.  Franzen is a bit of a  grumpy Luddite, but in a gently provocative way that creates a fresh look at contemporary mores.  The title essay is about the suicide of his friend David Foster Wallace and a stay on a remote island where bird-watching (one of Franzen's passions) and the absence of technology provide respite, as his friend's ashes are scattered. This is an intimate book, a clear mirror of the continuing changes in the author's life.

Both Rick Moody and Jonathan Franzen are famous for their fiction. Moody's most recent novel is the dystopian Four Fingers of Death. Franzen's newest is Freedom.


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