Jonathan Franzen is an American novelist and essayist whose sprawling multilayered novels about contemporary America have elicited critical acclaim. He grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and later attended Swarthmore College. After earning a B.A. in 1981, he attended Berlin’s Freie Universität as a Fulbright fellow. Upon his return to the United States he began his first novel, writing for eight hours each day. To earn money he worked weekends as a research assistant at Harvard University tracking earthquake activity around the world.
His novels include The Twenty-seventh City (1988); Strong Motion (1992); The Corrections (2001), which he worked on at MacDowell, and which focuses on a family of five whose members endure unsuccessful marriages, strained familial relationships, and failed careers. The novel received extensive critical praise, winning a National Book Award in 2001. Franzen contributed a series of essays to The New Yorker magazine that were later compiled into his fourth book, How to Be Alone (2002). He has also written Freedom (2010), which focuses on a contemporary family of the American Midwest and probes its members’ relationships with each other and those around them, and Purity (2015).